SearchArchives for August 2012
31 August, 2012
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has launched a new publicity campaign to counter plans to cut the size of the Australian Public Service.
to oppose cuts
National Secretary Nadine Flood said the Cuts Hurt campaign would allow Australians to speak up in support of keeping public services strong.
“The Federal Public Service performs thousands of important jobs, from delivering payments to millions of families, protecting our borders, supporting our military to forecasting the weather,” Ms Flood said.
“Agencies like Centrelink help millions of people each year, while Customs and Quarantine keep our borders safe.
“Despite this there is an ideological campaign being run against public services.”
She said Commonwealth Public Servants were already struggling to deal with a $2.4 billion Budget reduction and 4,200 job cuts caused by the Federal Government’s increased ‘efficiency dividend’.
“But the Coalition is threatening to make even bigger cuts, getting rid of 12,000 public sector jobs and slashing $50-70 billion in government spending if it is elected,” she said.
“The public sector is already under pressure and cuts of this scale will severely damage public services in Australia.”
Ms Flood said research showed 67 per cent of Australians were concerned about the prospect of 12,000 jobs being in the Federal Public Service.
“It is clear that the public can see through the spin that these cuts can somehow be achieved without reducing the services the Australian community relies on,” she said.
“The community is already being hit by 40,000 jobs cut by conservative state governments in Queensland, NSW and Victoria.
“It is impossible to implement cuts of this size without reducing services and damaging the long-term capacity of the Public Service.”
More information on the CPSU campaign is available from this PS News link.
31 August, 2012
IPAA gets social
The Western Australian Division of the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) has collated the three most important social media tools it says PS agencies should know about.
with social media
According to IPAA WA, a recent survey by the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government (ACELG) found that 43 per cent of respondents did not have a good understanding of social media.
The Institute, in collaboration with former APS staffer and now social media expert Craig Thomler, put together their ‘top three social media tools’ that agencies might not know about but which could be used to improve communication both internally and externally.
It listed Pinterest (www.pinterest.com) as number one, saying the photo sharing website allowed users to “pin” pictures they found online.
“It is a highly interactive and social website because users can “like” or “repin” each others’ pictures and aims to “connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting,” IPAA WA said.
“Pinterest accounts for 3.6 per cent of referral traffic to websites (Twitter is 3.61 per cent).”
It also listed Backupify (www.backupify.com) as number two, saying 63 per cent of Google Apps data loss was due to user error.
“With 81 per cent of people in the world now owning a Smartphone, and the move to cloud-based applications, there is still no 100 per cent guarantee that your data is safe due to hacking, user error, malicious deletion, and other unforeseen problems,” it said.
“Backupify is an independent backup system and supports several social and cloud-based services including Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, Google Docs and LinkedIn.”
Visual.ly (visual.ly) was named as number three on the list.
“Visual.ly’s free tools make it easy for anyone to create beautiful, personalised infographics in minutes,” IPAA WA said.
“Visual.ly could potentially be used by government organisations wanting to display important data or statistics to the public in a more creative and visually appealing way.
“Copyright of the image remains with the person who publishes it, however Visual.ly now offers their services to analyse data, design and distribute infographics.”
The WA branch of IPAA is to explore the use of technology across government in greater detail at its annual RightClick seminar being held in Perth next week on 5 September.
31 August, 2012
Water Minister has
The Minister for Water, Tony Burke, has not ruled out using his legal powers to finalise the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
reservoir of powers
Announcing that he would continue to work with the Basin States to reach an agreed position, Mr Burke said he had ‘unilateral’ legal powers under the ACT to direct changes but he was prepared to try to reach a consensus first.
He said the Basin States South Australia, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Queensland had reached further consensus on the details of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, but there was still work to be done.
“This latest agreed document gets us closer still to a genuine consensus position to reform of the Murray-Darling Basin,” Mr Burke said.
“This reform is all about delivering a healthy working basin for generations to come.”
He said consensus had “failed for a century” so he wouldn’t rule out using his legal powers in the future.
“But if for the sake of a few more weeks we can get an agreed outcome, then I believe it’s worth the continued effort,” he said.
“This additional consultation with the States does not in any way compromise my determination to have a plan in place this year.”
Mr Burke said there was strong support for a mechanism which allowed the volume of held water to vary within limits in circumstances where water could be used more efficiently, whether it was environmental water or irrigation water.
“This puts the focus squarely on outcomes rather than volume,” he said.
“While every jurisdiction is actively engaged in finding ways to maximise environmental outcomes while minimising any negative impact on the communities, I don’t want to stop that conversation short.”
31 August, 2012
A computer game-based program developed for the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to educate children about cyber-safety has been found to be extremely effective in an independent evaluation.
meeting the challenge
According to ACMA, the Cybersmart Detectives program is part of its Cybersmart Challenge, a suite of online activities that encourage upper primary students to learn about internet safety by practising social problem solving skills in a similar environment to live online situations.
The program was evaluated by the Child Health Promotion Research Centre (CHPRC) at Edith Cowan University which measured the level of understanding of the 28,000 students participating in the program, both before and after they played the game.
Deputy Chairman of ACMA, Richard Bean said the research showed the value of teaching Cybersmart Detectives to students in a safe, school-based environment, particularly for vulnerable youth who were most at risk.
“The realistic scenarios in the game help to educate and empower students online so they can make informed decisions when faced with cyberbullying and social networking in real-life situations,” Mr Bean said.
“It is good to see that students reported that after playing the game they would change their personal online behaviour, for example, by removing or altering any information they had already placed online.”
He said participation in the Cybersmart Detectives activity also reinforced the concept of ‘stranger danger’ in an online environment, with the students revealing they now understood how easily others could conceal their true identity online.
31 August, 2012
Black letter day
Australia and Europe are to link their carbon emissions trading systems.
for carbon trade
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet joined the European Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard, to announce a “full two-way link, by means of the mutual recognition of carbon units between the two cap and trade systems”.
Mr Combet said the link would be in place and working no later than 1 July 2018 and under the arrangement, businesses would be allowed to use carbon units from the Australian emissions trading scheme or the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) for compliance under either system.
“Linking the Australian and European Union systems reaffirms that carbon markets are the prime vehicle for tackling climate change and the most efficient means of achieving emissions reductions,” Mr Combet said.
Ms Hedegaard said the EU ETS was the first regional emissions trading system which spanned the largest part of the European continent.
“We now look forward to the first full inter-continental linking of emission trading systems,” Ms Hedegaard said.
“This would be a significant achievement for both Europe and Australia.
“It is further evidence of strong international cooperation on climate change and will build further momentum towards establishing a robust international carbon market.”
Mr Combet said to facilitate the link the Australian Government would make two changes to the design of the Australian carbon price to ensure there would be no ‘floor price’ and a new sub-limit would apply to the use of eligible Kyoto units.
He said while liable entities in Australia would still be able to meet up to 50 per cent of their liabilities through purchasing eligible international units, only 12.5 per cent of their liabilities would be able to be met by Kyoto units.
He said an interim link to the EU ETS would be established by 1 July 2015 whereby Australian businesses would be able to use EU allowances to help meet liabilities under the Australian emissions trading scheme.
“These arrangements provide Australian businesses with access to a larger market for cost-effective emission reductions and provide European market participants with enhanced business opportunities,” Mr Combet said.
31 August, 2012
New dental plan
A new Government-subsidised dental care scheme has been announced by the Minister for Health, Tania Plibersek.
is all smiles
Ms Plibersek said under the $4 billion package more than three million children would be eligible for government-subsidised dental care, in the same way they were entitled to Medicare-funded GP visits.
She said the Dental Health Reform package would also provide dental services to more than one million low income adults and people in rural and remote areas, focusing especially on pensioners.
“While Medicare and free hospital care have been a basic right for Australians for decades, millions of people in this country still go without adequate dental care,” Ms Plibersek said.
“We have a responsibility to ensure Australians who are least able to afford to go the dentist, and particularly children, should be given access to government-subsidised oral health care.”
She said recent studies showed children in the poorest areas of the country experienced one and a half times the amount of tooth decay and cavities, compared to those in the wealthiest areas.
“We also know that low income households have more than double the number of family members with untreated tooth decay compared with high income households,” she said.
Ms Plibersek said the $4 billion package was in addition to the $515 million announced in the 2012-13 Budget, which included a blitz on public dental waiting lists, additional dental training and support for people in rural and remote areas.
“This package will deliver a better system of dental health care for Australians that is accessible, affordable and focuses on prevention,” she said.
31 August, 2012
New ratings measure
The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) has released the criteria against which children’s education and care services will be judged to be rated ‘Excellent.’
Chair of the ACECQA Board, Rachel Hunter said the criteria were established to recognise providers who were champions of quality improvement.
“There are some services in Australia that really raise the bar on what quality education and care looks like,” Ms Hunter said.
“We look forward to giving formal recognition to those outstanding services, celebrating their excellence and sharing their ideas to encourage continuous improvement across the sector.”
She said under the National Quality Framework all services would be assessed and rated against a set of quality criteria
She said to the assessment would look at whether a service ‘exemplified and promoted exceptional education and care that improved outcomes for children and families’; whether it ‘demonstrated leadership that contributed to the development of a community, a local area, or the wider education and care sector’; and whether it ‘demonstrates commitment to sustained excellent practice through continuous improvement and comprehensive forward planning’.
“Only services which receive a rating of Exceeding the National Quality Standard will be eligible to apply for an Excellent rating through ACECQA,” Ms Hunter said.
She said the first ‘Excellent’ ratings were likely to be awarded by ACECQA in 2013.
“Additional guidelines about applications are being developed and will be published this year,” she said.
“Applications are not yet open but the timing will be announced later this year.”
More information about the ratings can be accessed at this PS News link.
31 August, 2012
And in other news...
Survey finds cuts unpopular
A research survey for the Community and Public Sector Union has revealed that a majority of Australians do not support proposed cuts to the Australian Public Service.
According to the study 67 per cent of respondents said they were concerned about a proposal to cut 12,000 jobs from the national PS.
Details of the survey results can be accessed at PS News link.
Police mark end of Ramadan
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has hosted a number of dinners with the Islamic community to celebrate Eid ul-Fitr marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
The dinners were part of the AFP’s commitment in engaging with the community.
Similar events at the end of Ramadan have been hosted by the AFP for the past six years.
Seacare awards finalists named
The Seafarers Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Authority (Seacare) has announced the finalists for its 2012 Seacare Awards.
The Awards acknowledge successful and positive initiatives in best practice OHS, rehabilitation and return to work programs.
Winners will be announced at an awards presentation on Wednesday 24 October in Sydney and a full list of finalists can be accessed at
PS News link.
Fishing decision in spotlight
Acting Commonwealth Ombudsman, Alison Larkins has confirmed an investigation into the administrative actions of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) in determining the Total Allowable Catch relevant to the super trawler FV Margiris.
The investigation was prompted by a complaint from Independent MP Andrew Wilkie.
Ms Larkins said like all Ombudsman investigations, this one would be conducted in private and the decision to investigate did not mean the agency has acted inappropriately.
Refugees quota to 20,000
Australia’s humanitarian immigration program is to increase to 20,000 places in 2012-13, in line with the recommendation of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers.
$10 million will also be allocated for regional capacity building projects with a special emphasis on United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
As an immediate measure, an additional 400 refugees from Indonesia will be resettled as part of a commitment to offering safe alternatives to dangerous boat journeys.
The public is being urged to beware of scammers posing as representatives of the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services, and Indigenous Affairs.
There have been reports of scammers calling people claiming to represent the Department and offering government grants of up to $100,000.
The Department said there was no need for people to provide personal information, such as banking details over the phone to receive Household Assistance Package payments.
Solomons PM visits Mint
The Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Gordon Lilo has visited the Royal Australian Mint for the unveiling of a new coin.
The collectible coin celebrates the planned visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to the Solomon Islands later this year.
It is the second project within a year that the Mint has been working on with the Central Bank of Solomon Islands.
Malaria in sights
Australia is working towards the long-term elimination of malaria in the Solomon Islands with new funding announced for treated bed nets, mosquito spraying and community education.
Australian aid has already reduced malaria incidence in the Islands from 199 cases per 1,000 people 10 years ago, to just 46 cases per 1,000 people today.
A regional anti-malaria conference is to be hosted in Sydney from 31 October to 2 November to better co-ordinate Asia-Pacific campaigns to fight the disease.
28 August, 2012
Reforms to the Australia Council for the Arts have begun with the first steps increasing its responsibility for a broader range of arts funding programs.
reforms in the picture
Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean said a number of programs would be transferred to the Australia Council from the Office for the Arts, including Playing Australia, Visions of Australia, Festivals Australia, the Contemporary Music Touring Program, Contemporary Touring Initiative and the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy.
“The recent Review of the Australia Council recommended a number of significant changes to the structure and operations of the Government’s major arts funding body,” Mr Crean said.
He said the announced moves were the first steps in readying the Australia Council for the challenges of an arts sector that was transforming.
He said the reforms would help deliver on the goals of the National Cultural Policy.
“Through these programs the Australia Council can increase the access of Australians living in regional and remote communities to high quality productions and exhibitions,” Mr Crean said.
Chair of the Australia Council, Rupert Myer welcomed the announcement, saying the Australia Council was perfectly placed to build on the success of the programs.
“This is a significant opportunity for the Australia Council to work more closely with a broader range of arts organisations and with venues throughout regional Australia,” Mr Myer said.
“These changes will provide the sector with a single source of funding with consistent application and reporting processes.
“We will work closely with the Office for the Arts to ensure a smooth transition of program management for recipients and applicants.”
Mr Crean said it was important that arts funding was peer-assessed.
“The Australia Council has a robust assessment process,” he said.
“Peer assessment by experts in the field will continue to be an important feature of the regional touring programs.”
He said the transfer of regional touring programs would take place progressively over the next six months.
28 August, 2012
Charity begins with
New legislation has been introduced to establish the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC).
Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury said the establishment of the ACNC was the cornerstone of the Not-For Profit (NFP) reform agenda and would provide, for the first time, a dedicated regulator for the NFP sector.
Mr Bradbury said the ACNC would serve as an independent national regulator, with a greater focus on the particular needs of the NFP sector.
He said it would determine an entity’s charitable status and provide information to the public about the NFP sector and the work that it did.
“The NFP sector has long called for a dedicated national regulator that understands the sector and its needs,” Mr Bradbury said.
Minister for Social Inclusion, Mark Butler said the new body was an essential step to strengthen and support the sector, reduce re-tape and create an independent one-stop shop regulator for the sector.
“This is about letting non-government organisations and charities get on with what they do best, rather than being weighed down by regulation and red-tape,” Mr Butler said.
“The sector forms a vital part of our community and economy and, as it grows and develops, we want a regulatory framework that will support the sector’s growth and the important activities it undertakes.”
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is currently the de facto Commonwealth regulator of charities, with the dual roles of determining an entity’s charitable status and enforcing the taxation laws.
Mr Bradbury said the Government had also introduced the Tax Laws Amendment (Special Conditions for Not-for-profit Concessions) Bill 2012 to re-state the ‘in Australia’ special conditions for income tax exempt entities and codify the ‘in Australia’ special conditions for deductible gift recipients.
28 August, 2012
A bill paying service run by Centrelink has now helped more than 500,000 people avoid debt, late fees and interest.
accounts for bills
The service ‘Centrepay’ can be used for a wide range of bills including rent; electricity; Council rates; ambulance; childcare/education fees and expenses; medical expenses; legal fees; and court fines.
It is voluntary and people who receive Centrelink payments can start, change or cancel their deductions at any time.
Minister for Human Services, Senator Kim Carr said the free service offered people a way of budgeting and an alternative to payday lenders.
Senator Carr said legislation had been passed to help reduce the financial harm caused by payday lenders on vulnerable consumers.
“We are also helping people access affordable alternatives,” Senator Carr said.
“I have received letters from payday lenders who charge exorbitant interest rates claiming there are no alternatives for their customers.
“Centrepay puts that myth to bed.”
He said Centrepay helped people by deducting regular small amounts from their Centrelink payments to a nominated bill.
“Centrepay managed $1.76 billion through 21 million payments last financial year - helping prevent millions of dollars in fines, late payments and interest repayments,” he said.
“Centrepay is free and open to everyone who receives a pension, Newstart or any kind of payment from the Commonwealth.”
Senator Carr said that in June the Department made 43,283 Centrepay deductions totalling $1,381,231 to community organisations such as Good Shepherd that provided no interest loans under the No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS).
Chief Executive of Good Shepherd Microfinance, Adam Mooney said half a million deductions for NILS loans had been made through Centrepay.
“Centrepay plays an important role in the Good Shepherd Microfinance model of community credit,” Mr Mooney said.
“Having Centrepay means clients can pay back their loans quickly and easily.
“No and low interest loans, responsibly repaid through Centrepay’s free deduction service, make tangible contributions towards the aspirational well-being of low income Australians.”
28 August, 2012
A report by the Australian Human Rights Commission into the treatment of women in the Defence Force has been released.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick said the Commission’s report of the Review into the Treatment of Women in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) was the most comprehensive review of its kind ever undertaken.
“Our over-arching finding is that, despite progress over the last two decades, I am not confident that, in all the varied workplaces that comprise the ADF today, women can and will flourish,” Ms Broderick said.
“Having said that, we found much that is positive in the ADF for both women and men.”
She said to be a strong force into the future and a first class employer with a first class reputation, the ADF must address the problem of a shrinking talent pool, the significant cost of unwanted departures, the lack of diversity among leadership, and the unacceptable behaviour sometimes faced by women.
“During the course of our Review, we found ambivalence across the ADF about the importance of increasing the number of women in defence environments,” she said.
“We also found a lack of understanding about the cultural and structural impediments to female representation, as well as a certain level of acceptance of a status quo that no longer reflects the needs of a contemporary fighting force.”
Ms Broderick said the report made 21 recommendations in relation to diversity of leadership; the participation, recruitment and retention of women in the ADF; workplace flexibility; harassment, violence and abuse; and the responsibility of Defence leadership to deliver and ensure effective reform.
She said among the recommendations was the application of targets in a small number of areas.
“In selected areas, targets are crucial to ensuring that women have the same opportunities as men in all aspects of ADF life,” she said.
“Without these targets, there will be no change - men and women will not be operating on a level playing field.
“As a foundation for successful reform, we have also stressed the importance of the Chief of the Defence Force and the Chiefs of each Service, having direct responsibility for the implementation of the recommendations laid out in the Report.”
The Australian Human Rights Commission’s report can be accessed at this PS News link.
An opinion piece by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Ms Broderick is also featured in PS News this week at this PS News link.
28 August, 2012
Tax laws have been amended to crack down on living-away-from-home (LAFH) allowances, tightening the rules and making it more difficult to qualify.
harder to live with
Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury said the new rules required people to legitimately maintain a home in Australia away from their actual home for an initial period.
“Our reforms to the tax concession for LAFH allowances and benefits will ensure that this taxpayer-funded tax break can’t be misused or exploited,” Mr Bradbury said.
“The tax concession will continue to support people who are bearing additional costs because they have to maintain a home in Australia away from their actual home for work purposes, for up to 12 months.”
He said the amendments made by the Tax Laws Amendment (2012 Measures No. 4) Bill 2012 and were in response to recommendations from the House of Representatives Economics Committee.
“The Committee’s report supported the policy intent of the reforms but identified a number of improvements in the drafting,” he said.
“The Government amendments introduced today pick up on all of the key recommendations in the Committee’s report to ensure the reforms operate as intended.”
The changes have been criticised by accountants with prominent Canberra practitioner Mike Bannon saying they made bringing skilled workers to Australia more difficult.
Writing in the Canberra Times, Mr Bannon said the new conditions were “almost impossible” to fulfill.
Mr Bradbury said the amendments would ensure LAFH allowances were taxed entirely within the fringe benefits tax system; expand the definition of fly-in fly-out workers and drive-in drive-out workers for the purposes of the reforms; and amend the circumstances in which the 12 month time limit would pause, to provide certainty and simplicity.
He said they would not affect the tax treatment of travel and meal allowances.
28 August, 2012
New laws put stamp
Measures to modernise Australia’s postal voting system and improve the way postal vote applications were made and processed have been passed by the House of Representatives.
on postal voting
Special Minister of State, Gary Gray said the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Improving Electoral Procedure) Bill implemented recommendations made by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters in its report into the 2010 Federal election.
“At the 2010 election, the Electoral Commission processed more than one million postal votes, which was a 17.8 per cent increase in the number processed at the 2007 election,” Mr Gray said.
“The amendments improve the way postal vote applications are handled by enabling centralised electronic processing and dispatch.
“They do not fundamentally change the existing policy underpinning the current arrangements for postal voting.”
He said the amendments also included incentives to reduce the size of ballot papers.
“The Bill had cross-party support,” he said. “It will now go to the Senate for consideration.
“It is part of a package of reforms that have been made to the Australian Electoral Act.”
Mr Gray said the new legislation followed moves earlier this year which saw the Parliament complete the passage of two laws to target 1.5 million Australians who were entitled to vote but were not even on the roll.
“The Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Maintaining Address) Act and the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Protecting Elector Participation) Act allow the Electoral Commission to enrol electors, or update their details, by using reliable third party information,” he said.
28 August, 2012
New racism strategy
A new strategy has been launched encouraging all Australians to stand up against racism.
is black and white
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon said Australia’s National Anti-Racism Strategy - Racism, it stops with me - was built on the idea that everyone had a responsibility to stamp out racism when they saw it.
“It’s not cool to laugh at a joke that just isn’t funny - you can speak out for others,” Ms Roxon said.
“Comments like ‘I’m not racist, but...’ aren’t okay and we all need to step in and pull people up.”
She said tackling racism head on was something every Australian had a stake in so everyone could enjoy the uniquely Australian, fair go.
“Racism, it stops with me sets out a three-year plan for Government to work with community partners to combat racism across schools and higher education, the media, government service providers, workplaces and the internet,” she said.
Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Senator Kate Lundy said the strategy was a key initiative of our national multicultural policy, The People of Australia, and confirmed a continued commitment to a national partnership to combat racism.
“The new national strategy reaffirms the government’s strong opposition to all forms of racism, discrimination, intolerance and prejudice,” Senator Lundy said.
“Racism discounts people’s contribution, locking them out of social and economic opportunities and entrenching disadvantage.”
She said the tagline ‘Racism. It stops with me’ made it absolutely clear that the strategy started at a grassroots level and everyone in Australia could work to combat racism when they saw or experienced it.
“By addressing racism in the community we are ensuring we can continue leverage the strength of our diversity and prosper as a nation,” she said.
28 August, 2012
Records guide win
A new research guide to Northern Territory records held by the National Archives of Australia has been selected as a joint winner in the Mander Jones awards.
The annual Mander Jones awards were introduced by the Australian Society of Archivists (ASA) in 1996 to recognise excellence in archival publishing.
The 300-page book, Commonwealth Government Records about the Northern Territory explores the history of the Northern Territory through Commonwealth Government records.
It jointly won category three in the Awards for ‘the best finding aid to an archival collection held by an Australian institution or about Australia’.
Director-General of the National Archives, David Fricker said he was very proud of the publication and it was heartening to have it recognised as a valuable finding aid for both experienced and new researchers.
“Author Ted Ling has done a remarkable job in highlighting the rich history of the Northern Territory through the Commonwealth Government records held in our collection,” Mr Fricker said.
“This publication has joined the ranks of research guides published by the National Archives to help historians and other researchers delve into our vast collection of 40 million items.
“We have also placed an electronic version of the publication on our website so anyone seeking information has it at their fingertips.”
The electronic version of the book can be accessed at this PS News link and to read Rama Gaind’s review of the book for PS News go to this PS News link.
28 August, 2012
A new publication has been launched in Canberra by the Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Senator Kate Lundy to help new migrants build their new lives in Australia.
on settlement book
Senator Lundy said The Settlement Journey: Strengthening Australia through migration outlined the Government’s settlement policy and a suite of services available to new migrants.
“The Australian Government’s settlement policy is calibrated to capitalise on the economic, social, and humanitarian benefits of migration so that new migrants can flourish and Australia can prosper,” Senator Lundy said.
“Australia’s settlement services aim to address the needs of new arrivals to help them develop the knowledge and skills they need to become full participants in Australian society.”
She said the settlement journey was a shared experience for many Australians and the new publication highlighted the importance of government and settlement services working effectively together to strengthen settlement outcomes.
“Australia’s settlement policy is an important element of the government’s vision of a socially inclusive society in which all Australians are valued and have the opportunity to participate fully,” Senator Lundy said.
“Migrants and refugees contribute to Australia’s prosperity and success through their ingenuity, drive and determination and our settlement services are an investment in Australia’s future.”
The Minister said the new settlement publication outlined key principles such as providing support based on needs and maximising opportunities for new arrivals.
She said it would be distributed to libraries, migrant resource centres, councils and other community organisations.
28 August, 2012
Tax takes bite out of
The Commissioner of Taxation, Michael D’Ascenzo has launched a new publication outlining the Australian Taxation office’s (ATO) compliance approach for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and wealthy individuals.
Mr D’Ascenzo said more than $74 billion in revenue was collected last financial year from SMEs and wealthy individuals, representing over a quarter of all revenue collected by the ATO.
He said the new publication, Tax compliance for small-to-medium enterprises and wealthy individuals, was the first time the ATO had published detailed information on its approach to managing tax compliance risks for SMEs and complements publications targetted at large businesses and wealthy individuals.
“Those risks that attract our attention include things like where tax performance varies substantially from business performance, there are inconsistencies in activity statements or spikes in refund claims, or there are large one-off or unusual transactions,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
“By publishing information on how we assess risk and what attracts our attention, we intend to provide more practical certainty for taxpayers.”
He said the publication was also an example of how the ATO was making the system fairer and more transparent.
“Through it we are sharing our compliance approach, and clarifying what the community can expect from us and what we expect of business taxpayers,” he said.
Mr D’Ascenzo said that as well as outlining mutual expectations and how the ATO approached compliance risks, the publication also detailed what SMEs and wealthy individuals could expect as part of an audit and review process; how to avoid or reduce the risk of administrative penalties; and the range of options available in resolving disputes with the ATO.
“Importantly, the publication helps provide a framework for our relationship with the community,” he said.
“In developing it we consulted with business representatives to ensure the publication meets their needs.
“We have responded to feedback and we have made changes.”
Tax compliance for small-to-medium enterprises and wealthy individuals can be accessed at this PS News link.
28 August, 2012
Indigenous workers to
A new work and training program has been launched to help create jobs for Indigenous Australians.
star in media program
Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean and the Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development, Julie Collins, were joined by stars of the new Australian film, The Sapphires, to announce details of Screen Australia’s two year Media RING Indigenous Employment Strategy.
The $1.1 million work and training program will aim to create 40 new jobs for Indigenous Australians in sectors including newspapers, new media, film and television.
Mr Crean said The Sapphires was a great example of the incredible Indigenous screen talent in Australia, but more needed to be done to strengthen Indigenous representation in the media sector.
“The new employment program will help train and guide a new generation of Indigenous media professionals, whether they are on screen or in the media,” Mr Crean said.
“By investing to create new Indigenous employment opportunities in the media and screen industries, we’re not only diversifying workplaces, but investing in protecting and sharing our culture with many generations to come.”
He said the program also reflected the development of the National Cultural Policy, which would be released later this year.
Ms Collins said Screen Australia received funding through the Government’s $650 million Indigenous Employment Program to run the employment strategy.
“The initiative will create more diverse workplaces that will reflect and help share Australia’s rich Indigenous heritage,” Ms Collins said.
“The talent is there but what has been missing has been a large enough core of Indigenous people trained to work in the media industries.
“With the announcement of this program, there is now a focus on investing in Indigenous employment opportunities across all sectors of the media industry.”
Head of Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department, Erica Glynn said the Agency was committed to creating talent development opportunities for Indigenous people.
“This initiative will contribute to creating an Indigenous labour force that paves the way for a sustainable media industry inclusive of Indigenous Australians,” Ms Glynn said.
“We are pleased to be partnering with Media RING to administer this important program.”
Media RING is a non-Government association of organisations in the media industry encompassing broadcasters, government media agencies, Indigenous organisations, trade associations and guilds, media buyers and newspaper groups.
28 August, 2012
Paul’s first novel
Canberra Public Servant, Paul Hansen has released his first novel.
is novel idea
Mr Hansen’s book, Macedon Child of a God was launched by the Ambassador of Greece to Australia, Alexios Christopoulos who praised the author’s knowledge of Greek Mythology.
“Mr Hansen’s amazing knowledge of Greek Mythology, and his creative imagination, makes this a fantastic book to read, one that you cannot put down” Mr. Christopoulos said.
“His book is a revolution.”
He said the book explored the foundations of the events and political rivalry between the many heroes, kings, city states and even the Gods themselves that eventually led to the fall of Troy and the dark age of Greece.
It does this through the eyes of one of the “least known and almost forgotten heroes of Greek mythology” the demi-god Macedon.
Mr Hansen said how visiting Greece and ancient Macedonia in particular, inspired him to learn more about the myths and legends behind the places he visited.
“Most people know a bit about Greek Mythology,” Mr Hansen said, “but only as separate stories.
“But to the ancient Greeks these stories were viewed almost as history real people who did real things, and this exerted influence on their daily lives.”
He said the purpose of writing Macedon: Child of a God was to help re engage the public with the wonderful depth and complexity of Greek Mythology, but in a way that anyone from 12 years and up could easily understand.
Mr Hansen has been a senior officer of the Attorney-General’s Department for the past 10 years and has worked at the Australia Taxation Office (ATO) and as a serving member of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
He most recently held a long term position as Director in the Family Law Branch of Attorney-General’s before being seconded to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to work on Freedom of Information (FOI) issues.
Macedon: Child of a God is the first in a four-book series with the second book Macedon: Rage of a Dark Queen to be released towards the end of this year.
The first book is available direct from the publisher at this PS News link.
28 August, 2012
Job websites getting
Job Services Australia (JSA) has released its June 2012 Star Ratings.
the job done
The June ratings showed that around 85 per cent of job websites achieved a rating of three stars or higher, up three per cent on the March 2012 results.
Other results revealed that 82 per cent of Specialist Employment Services sites, which provide assistance to disadvantaged job seekers, achieved a rating of three stars or more, an 11 per cent jump since March 2012.
Minister for Employment Participation, Kate Ellis said the results were great news for job seekers.
“What these ratings tell us is that more than 80 per cent of JSA providers are getting great results placing Australians in work,” Ms Ellis said.
“It means that job seekers who want a high quality service now have even more choice when it comes to finding the service that’s right for them.
“We are committed to having the best possible employment services for Australian job seekers and we know that our providers will continue to strive to achieve this.”
She said the jump in performance followed a reallocation of service providers through the JSA Business Review in December 2011 and the recent JSA Request for Tender.
“The review and tender process means we’ve been able to ensure services are provided by organisations that are delivering great outcomes for people who want to return to work,” she said.
Ms Ellis said 76 per cent of Disability Employment Services achieved a rating of three stars or higher.
“With Disability Employment Services up for tender, it is an exciting time to ensure we have the best available providers delivering employment services,” she said.
“Every job seeker deserves the highest quality service possible and that is especially true for job seekers with a disability.”
The full results of the JSA’ June 2012 Star Ratings can be downloaded from this PS News link.
28 August, 2012
Reform plan to right
The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has released the first consultation paper for its inquiry about copyright law.
The Issues Paper, Copyright and the Digital Economy outlines the terms of reference for the Inquiry which will have the ALRC consider whether exceptions and statutory licences in the Copyright Act 1968 were adequate and appropriate in the digital environment and whether further exceptions should be recommended.
ALRC Commissioner for the Copyright Inquiry, Professor Jill McKeough said copyright law was an important part of Australia’s digital infrastructure and was relevant to commercial, creative and cultural policy.
“The questions we are asking in this Inquiry go to whether our current copyright laws are properly aiding the development of opportunities for Australian creators and not unduly hindering the development of new business models while at the same time ensuring appropriate protection for copyright,” Professor McKeough said.
“At the same time, the expectations of a global community to access and use material for a whole range of creative, community, educative and commercial purposes also needs to be considered.
“We are aware that in formulating any proposals for reform of copyright law, the costs and benefits to the community must be taken into account.”
She said the Issues Paper formed a basis for consultation and asked more than 50 questions relevant to how the current copyright framework was affecting both commercial and creative enterprise and how current exceptions and statutory licences were working in the digital environment.
“The Issues Paper provides background information, highlights the issues so far identified in research and consultations, and outlines the principles that will shape the ALRC’s proposals for reform,” she said.
“Community input will help inform the development of draft recommendations for reform to be released in a Discussion Paper due in mid 2013.”
The Copyright and the Digital Economy issues paper can be accessed at this PS News link and submissions close 16 November 2012.
24 August, 2012
Opposition plan puts
The Federal Opposition has announced plans to “outsource” some Commonwealth functions to State and Territory Governments.
States in federal role
In an interview with the Financial Review, Opposition spokesman on finance and deregulation, Andrew Robb said the coalition parties’ planned transfer of administrative responsibilities for enforcing environmental laws would be used as a model for other responsibilities to be delegated.
He said the policy would reduce red tape and eliminate the need for thousands of Australian Public Service jobs.
“Much of the bureaucracy that had grown up in recent years was designed to do no more than ‘leave a paper trail, to cover backsides’,” Mr Robb was reported as saying.
He said the Opposition was instead proposing small hit squads in different policy and industry areas to ensure standards set down by Federal government policy were being met.
He admitted the plans for the bureaucracy would be a huge devolution of responsibilities but said “businesses are just drowning in paperwork and it is not just an incremental thing.”
“There has to be a cultural change here,” Mr Robb said.
He said the arrangements would be put in place on a bilateral basis and would not strong-arm the States.
“Where we can encourage with bonuses and things we can afford, we will do that,” he said.
He said change was not going to happen overnight but progressively.
“We are looking to outsource something that previously has been a huge expense to the Commonwealth and will still require some expense to the State or other instrumentalities wherever we do these things,” Mr Robb said.
“We still do need people to ensure the basic requirements of our responsibilities are being met by these agents and mainly the states.
“But it does have implications over time for the size and the nature and the focus of the Federal Public Service.”
The plans were met with concern by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) whose National Secretary, Nadine Flood, described them as ‘dangerous’ and putting jobs, services and hard-won national standards at risk.
“It’s also deeply concerning that the Federal Coalition is proposing to cut commonwealth public service jobs at the same time state Coalition governments are slashing their own workforces,” Ms Flood said.
“If positions are cut at both the State and Federal level who’s going to do the work?” she asked.
24 August, 2012
Windows closing on
A submission to a Parliamentary Inquiry by the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has raised questions about the sustainability of some current IT procurement policies in the Australian Public Service.
In its comments to the Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications Inquiry into IT Pricing, AGIMO called for changes to the way software was bought from technology companies (mainly Microsoft) to get better value for money and improve the flexibility and productivity of PS computing.
AGIMO raised concerns over whether the Service-wide Microsoft Volume Sourcing Arrangement (VSA) which offered special pricing and licensing deals for Microsoft products was a good arrangement.
It said Microsoft insisted on selling its products to the Commonwealth through a large account reseller (LAR), rather than allowing the Government to buy directly.
“This procurement structure appears to provide little additional value to the Australian Government and introduces additional complexity and some extra cost,” AGIMO said.
“The Government negotiates the discount percentage and contract arrangements with Microsoft and these are applied to the price the LAR charges the government.
“This arrangement does not apply to all other governments and specifically not to the US government.”
It estimated in the submission that the prices APS clients paid were more expensive than those paid overseas.
“The difference in the base government price means the US government is paying some 50 per cent less than the base government price in Australia,” AGIMO said.
“The Singapore Government prices also appear to be some 50 per cent below those charged to the Australian Government.”
According to Government News, Microsoft also lodged a submission to the Inquiry which said there were a range of additional factors that impacted on pricing in the Australian market “including the relatively high cost of labour and rent; the impact of Australian specific regulations; the higher costs of marketing, training and advertising; supply chain costs, including transport and distribution and exchange rates”.
First Assistant Secretary for Agency Services at AGIMO, John Sheridan said the current VSA would expire on 30 June 2013.
“AGIMO has begun discussions with Microsoft regarding renewal,” Mr Sheridan said.
24 August, 2012
The Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) has launched a search for a new national president.
seeks new leader
Currently held by former NSW Treasury head Percy Allan, the position is responsible for leading the IPAA and ensuring its national affairs are conducted in accordance with the body’s National Governance Charter and resolutions of the National Executive and National Council.
According to the notice of vacancy, the IPAA President liaises actively with the National Council, its Executive and Divisions and visits all of them over a two-year term.
“The President also coordinates the production of IPAA policy discussion papers, including the selection of topics, the engagement of consultant authors and editorial work,” the notice says.
“The new President will be required to provide progress reports to the National Executive and National Council.
“The successful candidate will also liaise with, and provide guidance to, the Executive Director, National and support staff in the IPAA National Secretariat located in Sydney.”
Among the attributes required of candidates for the high-profile position is a illingness to work in a voluntary capacity for up to 2 days a week; experience in management at a senior level; well-developed project management skills; highly developed leadership, policy development, communication and interpersonal skills; and an ability to provide advice to the National Executive and National Council on a wide range of matters.
The part-time President will also receive a $2,000 expense allowance to meet the costs of travel etc.
“Only financial individual members of IPAA can nominate for this position.
“All nominations must be supported by a current financial individual member of the Institute.”
Further information is available from Mr Allan on (02) 9810 6346 or email «click here»@bigpond.net.au
Applications, including details of a financial member of IPAA supporting the applicant should be sent to the Acting National Executive Director, Craig Boaden, by Friday 7 September 2012 at «click here»@nsw.ipaa.org.au
24 August, 2012
Auditor pulls plug on
An audit of the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism’s (RET) administration of its Renewable Energy Demonstration Program has revealed management failures and weaknesses in administration.
In his audit report Administration of the Renewable Energy Demonstration Program (REDP), Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said the program was designed to accelerate the commercialisation and deployment of new renewable energy technologies for power generation in Australia by assisting the demonstration of the technologies on a commercial scale.
Mr McPhee said RET received 61 eligible applications for REDP funding in its first year, 2009, and $329.4 million was approved for six projects.
“These projects are expected to produce up to 141 megawatts of power from renewable technologies and attract a further $796.9 million in additional private sector investment,” Mr McPhee said.
“The projects are in a relatively early stage of development and, on the basis of current plans, are anticipated to be completed in 2015-16.”
He said at the time that REDP was being implemented (during late 2008 and early 2009) RET was still establishing core departmental functions.
“The acceleration of REDP’s implementation also meant that grant applications, assessments and decisions had to be completed within a compressed timeframe, adding to the program’s implementation risks,” he said.
He found there were shortcomings in the program’s management.
“The Department did not manage key aspects of the program’s implementation well, departing from generally accepted practices for sound grants administration, which had only recently been reinforced by the release of the Commonwealth Grant Guidelines.”
Mr McPhee said in particular there were weaknesses in a number of aspects of RET’s administration including program planning; probity arrangements; and assessment of applications.
“Since 2009, when the assessment processes for REDP were undertaken, RET has progressively strengthened its governance arrangements and guidance surrounding the administration of grant programs,” he said.
“There is, however, scope for the Department to enhance existing materials through greater coverage of the requirements relating to the documentation of merit assessment processes.
“The ANAO has made one recommendation directed to this end.”
The Auditor-General’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Donna Hanson, Ruth Cully, Eloise Lovegrove and Mark Simpson.
24 August, 2012
A joint investigation by the Australian and New Zealand Governments has found telecommunication companies were making excessive profits from trans-Tasman mobile roaming charges.
put on hold
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy joined the New Zealand Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Amy Adams, to release the report of the investigation - Trans-Tasman roaming draft report - saying it provided a number of options for both governments to consider to put downward pressure on mobile prices.
Senator Conroy said such a move would help Australians and New Zealanders who used their mobile phones when travelling between the two countries to know what the cost would be.
“The draft report makes it clear that telecommunications companies are stinging consumers on trans-Tasman mobile roaming charges and that their profit margins are excessive,” Senator Conroy said.
Ms Adams said New Zealanders had started to enjoy lower roaming prices recently.
“The draft report shows that the pressure created by our joint investigation has been a key factor in this reduction,” Ms Adams said.
The Ministers said the draft report provided a number of options to curb trans-Tasman mobile roaming charges including improving pricing transparency; using legislation to allow roamers to become local end-users; unbundling roaming services; and introducing wholesale and retail price caps.
Senator Conroy said both governments were now seeking submissions on the draft report from consumers, the telecommunications industry, and other stakeholders, which would inform the response adopted.
“One of the most common complaints that I hear is from people who return from overseas and are confronted by a mobile phone bill that runs into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars,” he said.
“I am, therefore, directing the Australian Communications and Media Authority to put in place an industry standard for mobile roaming so that consumers know exactly how much they will be charged when they make a phone call, send a text message, or surf the internet, wherever they may be overseas.”
The draft report from the investigation can be accessed at this PS News link and submissions will be accepted until 27 September.
24 August, 2012
Comment called on
A draft Australian Standard with new requirements allowing for different child restraint systems in vehicles is now open for public comment.
Chief Executive of Standards Australia, Colin Blair said the standard drew on ISOFIX and the similar North American LATCH system to provide consumers with more options and improved safety.
“Our rigorous public comment process will provide an opportunity for consumers, industry and stakeholders to provide input into the standard,” Mr Blair said.
He said ISOFIX was an international system for attaching child restraints to vehicles.
“It enables child restraints to attach to permanent brackets inside vehicle seats, with a means of providing a clear indication to consumers when they connect,” he said.
“The brackets are fitted to most European vehicles sold in Australia.”
Mr Blair said the draft standard specified design and performance requirements for devices to restrain children in vehicles to provide protection to the child in the event of a crash.
He said the Federal Government’s recently published Australian Design Rule, which provided for ISOFIX anchorages in vehicles, had allowed for the subsequent revision to the Australian Standard.
“The ISOFIX system for securing the child restraint to the vehicle continues to require the use of tether straps, or upper anchorage straps, which have been required for child restraints since the Australian requirements were first established,” he said.
“Another important revision to the standard would allow children, up to approximately three years of age, to be seated in a rear-facing position.”
The draft standard, DR (2012) AS/NZS 1754 Child restraint systems for use in motor vehicles can be downloaded from this PS News link and submissions close 16 October.
24 August, 2012
New laws to target
New laws have passed the Senate making it easier for police to track down cyber criminals around the world.
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon said the passage of the legislation would also allow Australia to accede to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime.
“Cyber crime is a growing threat that touches all aspects of modern life,” Ms Roxon said.
“It poses complex policy and law enforcement challenges, partly due to the transnational nature of the internet.”
She said by acceding to the Convention, Australia joined 34 other nations including the United States and Germany.
She said over 100 nations were also using the Convention as the basis to strengthen their legislation to combat the threat of cybercrime.
“This is good news for fighting crime and will help make it easier for police to track down cyber criminals around the world,” Ms Roxon said.
“In particular, this will help combat criminal offences relating to forgery, fraud, child pornography, and infringement of copyright and intellectual property.”
She said the Convention promoted a coordinated approach to cybercrime by requiring countries to criminalise such computer related offences.
“The Convention also establishes procedures to make investigations more efficient to improve international cooperation,” she said.
“The Convention is the first international treaty on crimes committed via the Internet and other computer networks, dealing particularly with computer-related fraud, child pornography and violations of network security.”
Ms Roxon said the Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 amended the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1987, the Criminal Code Act 1995, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 and the Telecommunications Act 1997.
24 August, 2012
Surveys by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) have found that online dating scams are causing considerable financial damage.
The AIC’s 2010 and 2011 online scam surveys were conducted in partnership with the Australasian Consumer Fraud Task Force and found Australians who participated admitted to losing almost $7 million in 2011.
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare said the annual survey was a snapshot of Australians’ exposure to consumer scams and could help identify scams as they happened.
“Dating scams were the most likely to result in financial loss or the disclosure of personal details, with almost half of victims reporting they had lost money,” Mr Clare said.
“In 2010, people aged 45 to 54 reported the highest percentage of victimisation.
“In 2011 the age group with the highest victimisation rate shifted to those aged 65 years and over.”
He said some criminal scams were random, using spam email and mobile phones to entice potential victims.
“Dating scams are more complex and can use identity fraud, along with information gathered from social networking sites, to target and groom particular individuals,” he said.
Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury said it was important that anyone targeted by a criminal scammer reported it to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on 1300 795 995.
“Even if the amount of money or information involved seems small, the same scammer could be targeting other people and that information can help prevent more fraud,” Mr Bradbury said.
The AIC report, Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce: Results of the 2010 and 2011 online consumer fraud surveys can be accessed at this PS News link.
24 August, 2012
Ballet fans flip
Two collectible coins have been released by the Royal Australian Mint to mark the 50th anniversary of The Australian Ballet.
The latest commemorative coin release is a collaborative effort between the two organisations and brings the art of ballet to coin form in a design developed by Mint coin designer, Aaron Baggio.
Chief Executive of the Royal Australian Mint, Ross MacDiarmid said the design was inspired by an image by photographer Liz Ham of the principal artists of The Australian Ballet, Olivia Bell and Adam Bull.
“Over the past 50 years, The Australian Ballet has left an indelible mark on Australia’s cultural history and has some fascinating stories to tell,” Mr MacDiarmid said.
“The Mint plays an important role as caretaker of Australia’s cultural history, and hopes that in commemorating this anniversary on these coins, they will serve as a medium for those stories.”
Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet, David McAllister said the brilliance and unmistakeably Australian style that typified The Australian Ballet were immediately recognisable in the coin’s design, and ballet enthusiasts looking for a way to join in celebrating the cultural milestone would be glad to find that the design was available on both a silver and cupro nickel coin.
“It’s a real thrill for our anniversary to be commemorated in such a special and long-lasting way; its recognition of the importance of an art form that has a long, proud and rich history in Australia,” Mr McAllister said.
“We hope lots of children around Australia who dance each week will be excited to collect their very own piece of The Australian Ballet.”
The 2012 50c 50th anniversary of The Australian Ballet coin can be purchased online at this PS News link.
24 August, 2012
And in other news...
Archives joins Ancestry
National Archives of Australia has entered a partnership with online genealogy website Ancestry.com.au to allow family historians and other researchers greater access to archival records.
Under the arrangement, Ancestry.com.au will create an index and digitise the records of passengers who arrived in Western Australia between 1897 and 1963.
According to the Director-General of the National Archives, David Fricker, providing a similar service without the partnership would be “a long-term project for us and costly.”
Appeal for park land
The Australian Government is to appeal against a decision by the NSW Supreme Court stoping it from transferring 50 hectares of Crown land on the Malabar headland in Sydney to the NSW Government for use as a national park.
The court ruled the Commonwealth was not entitled to terminate its deed of licence with the NSW Rifle Association.
Plans to create the coastal national park were announced in August 2010.
Magnets attract ban
The process to ban small, high-powered magnets that can cause serious injury or death if swallowed by children has been initiated.
The products, marketed under various names including ‘BuckyBalls’, ‘Neocubes’ and ‘Neodymium sphere magnets’, contain numerous small, high-powered magnets.
They are marketed as novelty items for adults to create patterns and build shapes but there have been reports of children swallowing the magnets, which can cause serious injury or even death.
Payday loans under control
Australia’s first national cap on payday loans has been introduced to provide better protections for borrowers who used the loans. The Consumer Credit Legislation Amendment (Enhancements) Bill 2012 (the Enhancements Bill) has passed Parliament and aims to put a cap on costs that balances consumer protection while still allowing lenders a return that is commercial.
Roadmap for Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) is seeking comment on a roadmap to protect at-risk plants, animals and habitats of the Great Barrier Reef.
The draft Great Barrier Reef Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2012 identifies at-risk species and habitats and is supported by vulnerability assessments that give an overview of the species, their health and status.
It can be accessed at this PS News link and submissions close 28 September.
Ideas wanted for adoption apology
People directly affected by forced adoption practices are being asked for their views on what the national apology should say.
The Forced Adoption Apology Reference Group is leading the initiative with members including individuals affected by forced adoptions and MPs.
Suggestions can be made by emailing email@example.com
Homeless find work
More than 1,000 Australians who were homeless or at risk of homelessness have found a job this year through the Wage Connect initiative.
Wage Connect is part of the Building Australia’s Future Workforce package and supports businesses to employ disadvantaged job seekers through wage subsidies.
Letters for paralympians
Two Australian students are being invited to write letters of support to Australia’s Paralympic Athletes via the Australia Post Letter Link program.
It is the first time students will have the opportunity to write to a Paralympian since the program was launched in 1992.
The London 2012 Paralympic Games opening ceremony will be held on 29 August and more information on the letter link program can be accessed at this PS News link.
Melbourne has been declared the world’s most liveable city for the second consecutive year.
Other Australian cities were also towards the top of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EUI) Global Liveability Survey with Adelaide coming in sixth place, Sydney (7th) and Perth (9th) ahead of more than 130 cities evaluated by the EUI.
Long exhibition for Gallery
The National Gallery of Australia has opened a new exhibition showcasing the work of Australian artist, Sydney Long.
The exhibition, Sydney Long The Spirit of the Land is the first major gallery retrospective of the artist and is on display in Canberra only.
It features over 115 paintings, watercolours and prints from collections around the country, many of which have not been displayed publicly before.
Gain for not-for-profits
Applications are now open for the 2012-13 Grants to Voluntary Environment, Sustainability and Heritage Organisations (GVESHO) program.
Last year 163 not-for-profit community-based environment, sustainability and heritage groups received funding under the program to assist with the day to day running costs of their organisation.
More information is available from this PS News link and applications close 14 September.
21 August, 2012
Archivists file in for
More than 1,000 archivists from 90 countries have come to Brisbane this week to try and solve the challenges of the digital age.
Hosted by the National Archives of Australia, the International Council on Archives (ICA) Congress is being held until Thursday (24 August) at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The ICA is dedicated to the effective management of records and the preservation, care and use of the world’s archival heritage through its representation of records and archive professionals around the world.
It is the first time the four-yearly congress has been held in Australia and this year’s theme A Climate of Change will be explored by a number of keynote speakers including the Head Archivist for the United States of America, David Ferreiro, who will present the topic, ‘Archives in a world of social media’.
The former Director-General of the British Security Service (MI5), Dame Stella Rimington will also speak on the topic of ‘Secrecy and accountability: Archives in a Wikileaks world’; while Judge Magistrate of Spain’s central criminal court and human rights lawyer, Baltasar Garzσn Real will explore ‘Truth, justice and reparation’.
Delegates are being asked to consider how emerging technologies like social media, blogs and ‘smart devices’ are challenging for modern archivists while at the same time citizens the world over are demanding more accountability from governments and greater access to information.
A ‘climate of change’ will also be considered through sub-themes of sustainability, trust and identity:
Sustainability: archives recognising archival and information management challenges and working together on strategies to ensure access, preservation, security, and longevity of evidence and information;
Trust: supporting good governance and accountability, advocating ethical and professional processes, developing standards and gaining international acceptance; and
Identity: archives helping the community to connect with their heritage, discover their individual stories and protect their rights; strengthening the value, impact and influence of archivists and information managers.
The full program for the week’s activities can be accessed at this PS News link.
21 August, 2012
Data centres sign
The Department of Finance and Deregulation and ComSuper are to be the first Federal agencies to enter into ‘Agreements for Lease’ of data centre facilities under arrangements set up by the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO).
up first agencies
The two agencies will be able to occupy facilities provided by Canberra Data Centres (CDC) and TransACT Capital Communications (TransACT) supplied under AGIMO’s Consortium Arrangement Agreements (CAAs) and the Whole-of-Government Data Centre Facilities Panel.
Assistant Secretary of the Strategic Sourcing Branch at AGIMO, Mundi Tomlinson announced the Agreements saying the Panel was established in 2011 via an open tender process.
“Using the Government’s collective purchasing power, the Panel provides access to high quality data centre facilities,” Ms Tomlinson said.
“Government agencies benefit from better pricing and contract terms, and not having to approach the market themselves.
“An approved data centre supplier benefits by entering a small number of long term contracts with the Government.”
She said the minimum requirements for a lease of data centre facilities under the deed was 500m2 of data centre space and/or 500kw of power supply for a 10 year period.
“These minimums were established as the points where the Government is benefitting from its coordinated buying power,” she said.
“To facilitate the use of the Panel by agencies with smaller data centre requirements, AGIMO has implemented a process where it will enter a CAA with a panellist and the agencies execute an Agreement for Lease (AFL).
“The AFL allows agencies to begin to occupy a facility while AGIMO coordinate additional agencies to build a consortium that meets the minimum requirements to enter into a lease under the head agreement.”
Ms Tomlinson said AGIMO was responsible for building consortia for agencies that were unable to meet the minimum requirements.
“AGIMO has worked closely with the two panellists in the establishment of these CAAs and appreciates their ongoing commitment to the Data Centre Strategy,” she said.
21 August, 2012
Neave named as new
Colin Neave has been appointed the new Commonwealth Ombudsman.
Minister for the Public Service and Integrity, Gary Gray said Mr Neave had a record in senior leadership roles in the law, consumer affairs and government administration.
“The Office of Ombudsman is a critical part of our system of government accountability,” Mr Gray said.
“It plays a key role in ensuring that Australians receive the public service that they deserve.
“His experience in public administration and in complaint resolution means he is well placed to ensure the Office of the Ombudsman is held in the highest regard by the Parliament and the community.”
Mr Gray said Mr Neave was currently serving as the President of the Administrative Review Council, Vice Chair of the Australian Press Council, Chairperson of the Legal Services Board of Victoria and Chairman of the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council.
“He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in June 2005 for service to public administration and to the banking and finance industry, particularly through dispute resolution,” he said.
“Previously Mr Neave has served as the Chief Ombudsman of the Financial Ombudsman Service and as the Australian Banking Industry Ombudsman.
“He has held senior management positions in the public sectors of several jurisdictions including as Deputy Secretary of the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, Managing Director of the Legal Aid Commission of NSW, Secretary of the Victorian Attorney-General’s Department and Director-General of the South Australian Department of Public and Consumer Affairs.”
Mr Gray said Mr Neave’s appointment was for five years commencing on 17 September 2012, filling the vacancy created by the resignation of the former Commonwealth Ombudsman, Allan Asher.
The Minister thanked Deputy Ombudsman, Alison Larkins, for “her leadership while acting as Commonwealth Ombudsman” and the staff of the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman for “the important work they do”.
21 August, 2012
The Minister for Finance and Deregulation has taken the Chairman of the Australian Business Council to task over claims the Australian Public Service was continuing to increase in size despite Government cutbacks.
cut down to size
The Minister, Senator Penny Wong said the Chairman, Tony Shepherd’s comment that the Commonwealth government sector was getting ‘bigger, bigger and bigger’ was incorrect.
“Payments as a proportion of GDP are below 24 per cent over the forward estimates, the longest sustained run since the 1980s,” Senator Wong said.
“Our tax to GDP ratio is at 22.1 per cent, well below the level of 23.7 per cent inherited from the previous government.
“In the 2012-13 Budget, over $33 billion in savings were identified across the forward estimates, adding to the $100 billion in savings found in the last four Budgets.”
She also pointed to what she said was the Government’s “strong record of driving efficiency in the Public Service” to dispute Mr Shepherd’s claims, saying the 2012-13 Budget had forecast a reduction in the size of the general government sector which served as proof the public sector was getting smaller, not bigger.
“The Government has also imposed, through the efficiency dividend, a strong discipline on the expenses of Federal Departments and Agencies,” she said.
“For this financial year, Departments and Agencies will need to find extra efficiencies equal to 4 per cent of the spending on their own operations.”
Senator Wong said over $13 billion in public sector savings had also been achieved recently through major reforms to areas such as travel, property management and ICT.
“The Government is continuing to look for ways to improve the effectiveness of the Public Service and ensuring Government Departments deliver their services at the best value for money for taxpayers,” she said.
21 August, 2012
Nearly 100 short films have been entered into a national anti-cyberbullying film competition run by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
a hit with students
The Commission’s social media campaign, BackMeUp is to raise awareness among 13-17 year olds about taking positive action if they see someone else being cyberbullied.
Cyberbullying spokesperson for the Commission, Helen Szoke said she was staggered by the response and the high quality of some of the two minute videos entered in to the competition.
“The videos tell it like it is bullying isn’t just the stuff of the playground at lunch time anymore,” Dr Szoke said.
“Cyberbullying takes place anywhere, anytime, and is all the more damaging because the bullies have no fear and hide behind key pads and computer screens.”
She said the short two-minute films conveyed simple messages about taking bystander action however they could have life-changing impacts on young people who experienced or witnessed cyberbullying.
“BackMeUp Campaign Ambassador Ruby Rose’s video attracted more than 4,400 views with more than 1,200 people liking the BackMeUp Facebook page,” Dr Szoke said.
She said entries would be shortlisted to go into a pool for the final judging on 27 August with winners of the al-expenses-paid week-long filmmaking workshop at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA) to be announced on 3 September.
The entries can be viewed at this PS News link and more information on the campaign is available from this PS News link.
21 August, 2012
TGA clears air on
A review of cough and cold medicines by the Therapeutic Goods Administration has led to warnings to parents not give them to children under 11 without professional adv ice.
Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King said while the review concluded there were no immediate safety risks with the products, it found there was evidence that they may cause harm to children and the benefits of using them in children had not been proven.
Ms King said that as a result, parents are being advised that cough and cold medicines should not be given to children under six and only given to children six to 11 on the advice of a doctor, pharmacist or nurse practitioner.
“Labels on these products will now be changed to reflect this new advice, and will be phased in from next month,” Ms King said.
She said while a baby or child may appear to have a cold, it could actually be suffering from a much more serious illness such as asthma, influenza, pneumonia, bronchitis, middle ear infection or another infection that required early medical attention and treatment.
“Cough and cold medicines offer only temporary relief of common symptoms such as runny nose, cough, nasal congestion, fever and aches,” she said.
“They do not affect the severity of the viral infection or shorten the time the infection lasts.
“An overdose of these medicines can lead to serious harm.”
Ms King said possible side effects from misuse of cough and cold medicines in children included allergic reactions, increased or uneven heart rate, slow and shallow breathing, drowsiness or sleeplessness, confusion or hallucinations, convulsions, nausea and constipation.
She said, as with all medicines, it was important to read and follow the instructions on the label.
“If you have any doubt about whether your child has a common cold or something more serious, consult a doctor or nurse practitioner,” Ms King said.
21 August, 2012
Heads up on new
The Royal Australian Mint used last week’s National Science Week to launch its newest innovation a curved coin.
Chief Executive of the Mint, Ross MacDiarmid said that as the curved coin created a domed shape it seemed only fitting for it to emulate the night sky and feature the well known Southern Cross.
“An astronomical design was perfect for this coin and not only because of the dome shape, we also added colour to truly capture the essence of the night sky and bring it to life,” Mr MacDiarmid said.
“The Royal Australian Mint has always been at the forefront of coin design and this latest coin release shows just how innovative and unique our products are.”
He said the Mint had unveiled prototypes of the curved coin late last year but they were now hitting the shelves and being snapped up very quickly because of the uniqueness and theming.
“We are always thinking of new ways to develop technologically, and this product was a real challenge in creating a visually appealing design on curved precious metal,” he said.
Mr MacDiarmid said the coin design featured the Crux constellation, otherwise known as the Southern Cross, which spanned the domed surface of the silver coin “like a celestial sphere”.
He said there were also navigational markers bordering the design, which pointed out where the viewer would face when looking up at the sky to get the best view of the constellation.
“This is the first release dedicated to constellations visible in the Australian sky, and in this new age of space exploration, we look forward to bringing you more astronomically themed products in the years to come,” he said.
Mr MacDiarmid said the 2012 $5 Southern Sky The Crux Silver Proof Colour Printed Domed coin retailed at $110 and was now available now through the Royal Australian Mint.
21 August, 2012
A national report into manufacturing has found the sector capable of growing and prospering in Australia if emerging opportunities are used properly.
made up by taskforce
Minister for Industry and Innovation, Greg Combet welcomed the report entitled Smarter Manufacturing for a Smarter Australia, developed by the Prime Minister’s Manufacturing Taskforce.
Mr Combet said he was committed to ensuring Australia retained a strong manufacturing industry and the Government would respond to the report’s recommendations with an Industry and Innovation Statement in the last quarter of the year.
“The Taskforce report concludes that manufacturing is an important part of the Australian economy, with significant links to other industries including construction, agriculture, utilities and services,” Mr Combet said.
“However it says the sector currently faces challenges such as the high Australian dollar, the strength of the resources boom in terms of capital and labour, more intensive global and regional competition and the continuing fallout from the global financial crisis.”
He said while acknowledging the economic context, the report mapped out a vision for the future of Australian manufacturing, making more than 40 recommendations designed to strengthen local firms as they adapted to global economic change.
“The report makes it clear that manufacturing can prosper and grow by taking advantage of significant emerging opportunities, especially in the Asian region,” the Minister said.
“The Government is supportive in principle of most of the report’s recommendations.
“However the Government does not support recommendations in the report to further investigate a Sovereign Wealth Fund and a domestic reservation policy for gas.”
Mr Combet said the Industry Capability Network, the Buy Australian at Home and Abroad Supply Advocates, AusIndustry and Enterprise Connect would be immediately brought together to share information on opportunities for Australian manufacturers in large domestic investment projects, with a particular focus on the resources sector.
“This network will be tasked to work closely with Austrade and the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation to identify and provide information on opportunities in export markets, with a focus on linking into global supply chains,” he said.
The Taskforce’s report can be accessed at this PS News link.
21 August, 2012
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released new figures describing the average Australian school student.
for stats report
Figures from the ABS’s 2012 CensusAtSchool questionnaire show primary school students sleep for an average of nine hours or more on a school night.
The ABS said CensusAtSchool also found reducing bullying in schools and healthy eating habits were two social issues consistently important to students right across the country.
“Environmental issues, such as conserving water, also continue to be a concern for the majority of students,” the ABS said.
It said the questionnaire also looked at internet use.
“In 2012, female students most often used the internet for the purpose of social networking while male students mainly used it for playing games,” it said.
“In comparison to 2010 and 2011, more Australian students are now using the internet for the purpose of research for their school work.”
The ABS said the questionnaire had received 21,617 voluntary responses from students in Years five to 12.
“The questionnaire is designed for education purposes only and allows students to complete 30 questions relating to various topics of relevance and interest,” it said.
“Students who were part of the 2012 questionnaire can now use the data in their classrooms for further investigation and to enhance their statistical understanding.”
The ABS said next year’s CensusAtSchool questionnaire would be opened on 4 February 2013.
21 August, 2012
National alliance for
A new national body to lead the network of Medicare Locals has been officially established.
Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek joined the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, to launch the Australian Medicare Local Alliance.
Ms Plibersek said the Alliance would play a key role in ensuring Medicare Locals functioned effectively and efficiently while working as a cohesive group, responsive to changing Government priorities.
“Medicare Locals will improve the coordination and integration of primary health care in local communities, addressing service gaps and making it easier for patients to navigate their local healthcare system,” Ms Plibersek said
“As the body responsible for supporting Medicare Locals at the national level, the new Australian Medicare Local Alliance will assume a key leadership role in primary health care.”
Mr Butler said the new Alliance would support Medicare Locals to become high performing organisations and, from 1 January next year, would also coordinate the provision of State-based functions on behalf of the Medicare Local network.
“The Alliance will play an important role in preventive health and health promotion, and will work with a wide set of stakeholders, including those in general practice, allied health, and the aged and social care sectors,” Mr Butler said.
“The Australian Medical Local Alliance will play a vital role in ensuring the ‘big picture’ in primary health care across the country comes into focus and I look forward to working with the Alliance in building a better health system.”
He said $493 million from 2010-11 to 2012-14 had been allocated for the establishment and operation of Medicare Locals and the Commonwealth would also be the primary funder of the Australian Medicare Local Alliance.
21 August, 2012
Australian scientists are working on a number of ways to reduce the amount of methane produced by sheep and cows.
step on the gas
Spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Julie Gaglia said the researchers involved with the Reducing Emissions from Livestock Research Project were attempting to unravel the genetic make-up of sheep in the hope they might one day breed animals that produced less methane.
“The Australian Government is working with researchers, industry and producers to ensure the science addresses the effects of a changing climate in a way that will help land managers improve their management practices and be profitable and sustainable,” Ms Gaglia said.
“This research and demonstration will continue through the $429 million Carbon Farming Futures Program.”
She said efforts were also being made by Australian beer drinkers to help cattle producers reduce methane produced by cows, although they may not know it.
She said a by-product of the beer making process, brewer’s grain, was just one waste product which scientists had shown could reduce methane emissions in cattle by 15 to 20 per cent.
Director of the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre at the University of Melbourne, Associate Professor Richard Eckard said the research project aimed to develop practical feeding strategies that farmers could implement to curb methane emissions and maintain profitability.
“Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide and each grazing dairy cow can burp up to 600 grams of the gas per day,” Professor Eckard said.
“The project has investigated several waste products that are high in oil including whole cottonseed meal, cold-pressed canola meal, brewers’ grains and hominy meal as feed additives for dairy herds.
“For every one per cent of oil added to a ruminant’s diet it translates to a three-and-a-half per cent reduction in methane emissions.”
The project is a joint initiative of Meat & Livestock Australia and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, supported by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries, the University of Melbourne and Dairy Australia.
21 August, 2012
Two independent evaluations have found Commonwealth spending on high-quality early intervention services for children with autism and their families to be delivering positive results.
Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin joined the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas, to welcome the findings from independent consultants undertaken over the past three years.
Ms Macklin said consultants found the Helping Children with Autism package had increased access to early intervention services for families while helping them better understand autism and the services available to them.
“Since 2008 more than 19,000 Australian children aged up to seven years have accessed more than 600,000 early intervention services through the package, including Autism Advisors, family support programs and playgroups,” Ms Macklin said.
“The evaluation of the Helping Children with Autism package recommended minor amendments to improve outcomes for children with autism and their families.
She said the evaluation by O’Brien and Rich Research Group of the Government’s six Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres found the centres’ comprehensive and quality early intervention services were highly valued by families.
“Located in South Western Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, North West Tasmania, Melbourne, and Perth, the centres deliver tailored early learning programs and support for children aged zero to six years with autism in a long day care setting,” she said.
“They also support parents in caring for their children and give them more opportunities to participate in their community.
“The Government is also considering recommendations to assist the Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres to provide further support for more children with autism and their families.”
Ms Macklin said the evaluations provided an important evidence base around effective early intervention therapies and services as preparations were being made to launch a National Disability Insurance Scheme from the middle of next year.
The Final Evaluation of the Helping Children with Autism Package can be accessed at this PS News link and the Evaluation of the Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres Initiative can be accessed at this PS News link.
17 August, 2012
Olympic team takes
The Australian Olympic team have been hailed as ‘biosecurity champions’ for their cooperation with Customs and quarantine officials on their return to Australia.
Of particular interest were the bouquets some athletes were presented with in London.
First Assistant Secretary of DAFF Biosecurity Border Compliance, Tim Chapman said the team worked with DAFF Biosecurity to ensure their Olympic mementos and other important items could be safely brought back into Australia.
“Our Olympians know they have to declare plant, animal and food items on the Incoming Passenger Card because it’s important for our industry and for all Australians,” Mr Chapman said.
“We worked with the Australian Olympic Committee early to make sure athletes’ bouquets will be taken in their carry-on baggage and declared for treatment.”
He said the winners’ bouquets contained lavender, roses, apple mint, rosemary and wheat which potentially posed a significant biosecurity risk for Australia if imported without treatment.
He said DAFF’s Biosecurity in-flight team, in partnership with Australian Customs and Border Protection Services, flew home with the Olympic team from Bangkok.
Mr Chapman said the in-flight team inspected all hand luggage onboard; collected the declared bouquets to send for treatment; and cleared all athletes and officials for biosecurity risk material prior to their arrival in Australia.
“We understand the significance of these important keepsakes for the athletes and through our in-flight team we will ensure the timely treatment and safe return of these reminders of their medal winning performances,” he said.
17 August, 2012
The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) is to host a series of workshops for athletes contemplating retirement or looking for additional support on their return from the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London.
Acting Manager of the National Athlete Career and Education Program (NACE) at the AIS, Nathan Price said there were a number of facets to the workshops which were supported by the Australian Olympic Committee and the Australian Paralympic Committee.“Preparing for and coping with the unique challenges of training, being selected and excelling at an Olympic or Paralympic Games can be a test for even seasoned elite athletes,” Dr Price said.
“We will also be providing transitional support to athletes who are retiring or contemplating retirement after the Games.”
He said the support could include career planning, educational guidance and employment preparation.
“We look at lifestyle management and personal development as well as psychological services to maximise wellbeing,” he said.
“These workshops will offer tools and information for athletes to prepare for the next chapter in their lives as well as provide them with an additional de-brief opportunity post Games and an opportunity to hear experiences from former athletes who have retired and navigated through the transition phase post a major event.”
Two-time Olympic cyclist, Katherine Bates was forced to give up competitive cycling after a serious back injury in December last year and said the transition from being an athlete into ‘normal life’ was a tough one.
“As an athlete you have such clear goals and measured outcomes, which is hard to replicate in the next phase,” Ms Bates said.
“Having said this, the passion that goes into being an athlete is an intrinsic quality, and so can be applied and transferred into whatever area one chooses.
“Whether it was NACE, the coaches, sports psychs or athlete mentors, I’ve never felt alone in my mission to succeed, on and off the track.”
Dr Price said the workshops were designed for athletes who were part of the 2012 Australian Olympic and Paralympic teams and would be conducted in November this year at locations including Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Perth.
17 August, 2012
Tax inspector plans
The Inspector-General of Taxation (IGT) has announced a community consultation process to establish a new Work Program for 2012-13 and beyond.
The IGT, Ali Noroozi said systems and processes set up by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to administer tax and superannuation laws were continually being reviewed and he was keen to ensure that his Work Program targeted areas that provided the greatest opportunity to improve tax administration.
“To this end,” Mr Noroozi said “I consult widely before settling a program of work and welcome submissions from taxpayers, tax professionals and their representative bodies.”
He said the consultation process was a valuable opportunity for the community to come forward and raise systemic tax administration issues that were of concern.
“By necessity, the ATO is a monopoly service provider,” he said.
“As such it is imperative that effective governance and scrutineering functions are engaged to address concerns.
“I encourage you to have your say in how administration of the tax system may be improved.”
Mr Nozoori said he was seeking the broadest engagement practicable in the time available.
“I will consider all the issues raised and review matters with the most potential for making the tax administration system fairer, simpler, more transparent, or more efficient.”
Mr Noroozi said the reviews conducted by his Office in the past year had identified potential topics for further examination including the ATO’s Risk Engine; delayed income tax refunds; its compliance approach to micro enterprises; the administration of penalties; its interactions with the Australian Valuation Office; and its use of client feedback questionnaires.
He said the ATO’s administration of the general anti-avoidance provisions; its compliance approach to transfer pricing; its services and support for tax practitioners; the Test Case Litigation Program; and Project Wickenby would also be looked at.
“I urge taxpayers, tax practitioners and their representative bodies to comment on the suitability of the above as review topics as well as raising any other topics arising out of their interactions with the ATO,” he said.
Submissions will on close 28 September and can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
17 August, 2012
Telecom services to
All the recommendations of a report on improving telecommunication services for vulnerable Australians are to be accepted by the Government.
go the distance
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy made the commitment together with the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas.
Senator Conroy said the recommendations in the Review of Access to Telecommunication Services by People with Disability, Older Australians and People Experiencing Illness included testing how the National Relay Service (NRS) could be improved; strengthening consultation to explore how new communications services could better support people with disabilities; improving the information available to vulnerable Australians; and facilitating discussions on emerging telecommunications access issues.
“Telecommunications technology is advancing at a rapid rate, so it’s important to explore how it can be used to improve services to some of Australia’s most vulnerable people,” Senator Conroy said.
“The review found that the National Relay Service is highly valued by people who are hearing impaired, but that it could be improved by additional services.
“The Telecommunications Universal Services Management Agency will shortly be releasing a tender for an enhanced NRS.”
Senator McLucas said implementing the recommendations was another step towards improving access to communication services for vulnerable Australians.
“All Australians have a right to access telecommunications services, including people with a disability, older Australians and people experiencing illness,” Senator McLucas said.
“The recommendations are in line with the National Disability Strategy, a 10-year reform plan that will help ensure that mainstream services and programs including healthcare, housing, transport, education and communications address the needs of people with disability.”
The report of the review can be accessed at this PS News link.
17 August, 2012
Women’s peace role
A new documentary and educational toolkit on women, peace and security has been launched by the Australian Civil-Military Centre in partnership with UN Women Australia.
The Australian Government Office for Women, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Mission to the United Nations in New York also played a part in the project’s development.
Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Mike Kelly said the documentary Side by Side: Women, Peace and Security explained the importance of the women; peace and security agenda and what the international community was doing to support it.
Dr Kelly said the documentary and its accompanying educational toolkit contributed to the delivery of several strategies and actions in the Australian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security 2012-18 and featured contributions from the United Nations Secretary-General, peacekeepers, humanitarians, activists, and women who had experienced and survived conflict.
Dr Kelly said the documentary and toolkit would play an important part in educating military, police and civilians on the issues they would face when deployed on peace missions in the Asia Pacific region and around the world.
“While the documentary will be of great use in pre-deployment training for military, police and civilians, I also recommend Side by Side to a much wider audience,” Dr Kelly said.
“Anyone with an interest in peace operations will be able to use the film and accompanying educational material as a starting point to deepen their understanding of the complexities faced by peacekeepers around the world.”
Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins said the project was an important step in supporting the National Action Plan that was launched in March this year.
“This documentary and toolkit are great, practical examples of what the Australian Government is doing to protect women’s human rights in conflict zones and promote their participation in peace processes,” Ms Collins said.
“We know that around 90 per cent of casualties in recent conflicts have been civilians, with the majority of victims being women and children.
“The equal status of women must be promoted and respected in all settings if we are to build a society worth living in.”
The National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security 2012-18 can be accessed at this PS News link.
17 August, 2012
Households cash in
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s (ASIC) 2012 spending clock has estimated the average Australian household will spend $69,166 on general living costs in 2012.
on spending clock
Senior Executive Leader of Financial Literacy at ASIC, Robert Drake said that level of spending amounted to $1,290 per week, however only 54 per cent of people knew exactly what their money was spent on.
“We suspect many households end up misdirecting thousands of dollars each year because they are not keeping track of where their money goes,” Mr Drake said.
“As the spending clock shows, expenses add up quickly.”
He said the Commission’s research showed many people fell into the habit of living pay to pay.
“That’s why we have developed a new suite of tools to help Australians take control of where their money goes week to week, so they can direct it to where it matters most,” he said.
Mr Drake said the tools provided by ASIC included a free smartphone app called TrackMySpend, which was available on ITunes; a Managing Your Money booklet; and an online Budget Planner, available on ASIC’s MoneySmart website.
“The TrackMySpend app can be used to record expenses on the go,” he said.
“The app helps the user set a realistic spending limit and stick to it.
“Expenses are entered by category to ensure the users money goes towards the things that are important.”
The booklet and other publications can be ordered for free on the MoneySmart website at this PS News link.
The ASIC spending clock can be accessed at this PS News link.
17 August, 2012
Closing World Expo
The Australian Pavilion at the World Expo in Korea has wrapped up its successful three-month exhibition.
packs up pavilions
Since the Expo’s launch in the city of Yeosu on 12 May, the Australian Pavilion welcomed 1.5 million people through its doors, proving to be a favourite with visitors.
Commissioner of the Australian Pavilion, Kevin Nixon said it was the first international pavilion at the Expo to announce it had reached a million visitors on 22 July, indicating that almost one out of every six people at the Expo had visited.
Mr Nixon said Australia’s presence also included a food stall, which was a hit among the Korean community with record sales of Kangaroo meat.
He said among the 1.5 million visitors to the Australian Pavilion were many high profile celebrities and personalities including Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Mary of Denmark; the Australian Minister for Trade and Competitiveness, Craig Emerson; Hyundai Motor Group mogul, Chung Mong-koo; as well as the Australian Pavilion Goodwill Ambassadors.
He said the Australian Pavilion, in conjunction with Austrade and Australian Education International, also used the opportunity to strengthen trade and education relations with Korea by hosting eight seminars focused on different trade sectors (such as marine capabilities, seafood, tourism and education).
“Participation in the Yeosu Expo was a global opportunity to introduce Australia to Koreans and a platform to enhance bilateral relationships between Korea and Australia,” Mr Nixon said.
“I appreciate all the visitors who came to the Australian Pavilion and look forward to seeing what the future holds for these two great countries.”
He said the Australian Pavilion was also officially recognised for its contributions to the success of the Yeosu Expo, receiving a Bronze award for ‘Creativity Display’ at the BIE Awards Ceremony.
17 August, 2012
Statistics add up
Of the more than six million migrants living in Australia over a million were born in the United Kingdom, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
In its latest publication Migration, Australia 2010-11 the ABS said the next largest groups were those born in New Zealand, followed by China, India and Vietnam.
“However, over the last decade, the proportion of Australian residents who were born in the UK has declined from 5.8 per cent of the population in 2001 to 5.3 per cent in 2011,” the ABS said.
“In contrast, the proportions increased for people born in New Zealand (from 2.0 per cent to 2.5 per cent), China (from 0.8 per cent to 1.8 per cent) and India (from 0.5 per cent to 1.5 per cent).
It said that in 2010-11, the most populated states received the greatest number of overseas migrants with New South Wales gaining 50,200 people; Victoria 45,700; and Queensland 31,300 persons.
“The Northern Territory had the lowest contribution with a net of 630 persons,” it said.
“In 2010-11, net interstate migration contributed to a population gain for Queensland (7,200 persons), Western Australia (6,200 persons), Victoria (3,800 persons) and the Australian Capital Territory (1,400 persons).”
The ABS said the States that lost from interstate migration were New South Wales (13,200 people), South Australia (2,600), the Northern Territory (2,500) and Tasmania (50). The Bureau of Statistics’ Migration, Australia 2010-11 report can be accessed at this PS News link.
17 August, 2012
Watchdog warns on
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has warned of the risks involved in participating in crowd funding projects.
‘Crowd funding’ involves the use of the internet and social media to raise funds in support of a specific project or business idea with project sponsors or pledgers typically receiving some reward in return for their funds.
ASIC issued guidance to promoters of ‘crowd funding’ to clarify the arrangements which might be regulated under the Corporations Act 2001 and Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001.
Commissioner, Greg Tanzer said ASIC had been monitoring the increasing use of crowd funding for investment purposes to identify any arrangements, or aspects of those arrangements, that may be regulated by ASIC.
“Crowd funding, as a discrete activity, is not prohibited in Australia nor is it generally regulated by ASIC”, Mr Tanzer said.
“However, depending on the particular crowd funding arrangement, ASIC’s view is that some types of crowd funding could involve offering or advertising a financial product, providing a financial service or fundraising through securities requiring a complying disclosure document.
“These activities are regulated by ASIC under the Corporations Act and ASIC Act and may impose legal obligations on operators of crowd funding sites and on people using those sites to raise funds.”
He said ASIC wanted to make sure anyone involved in crowd funding was aware of their obligations to ensure they operated within the law and didn’t potentially expose themselves to penalties under the law.
17 August, 2012
And in other news...
Agreement saves 667 jobs
The Community and Public Sector Union has reported that plans for 667 temporary positions to be cut from Centrelink this month have been put on hold.
The CPSU said the postponement had been arranged with the Minister for Human Services, Senator Kim Carr while review of services was undertaken.
The union had earlier claimed that reduced staffing levels in the Agency had led to longer waiting times, growing public anger and an increasing number of complaints among Centrelink clients
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has confirmed that an investigation into the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) following a complaint from a Member of Parliament had yet to be agreed to.
The Acting Ombudsman, Alison Larkins, said that if she decided to investigate the complaint she would not pre-judge the outcome.
“A decision to investigate a complaint is not an indication that an agency has acted inappropriately,” Ms Larkins said.
Youth video online
A video showcasing the first ever National Indigenous Youth Parliament (NIYP) has been launched by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).
The 15 minute short film follows the NIYP experience of four of the 50 young indigenous people from around Australia who attended the Youth Parliament in May this year.
The National Youth Indigenous Parliament video can be viewed at PS News link.
IPAA launches Facebook site
The Institute of Public Administration Australia has launched a Facebook page in the lead-up to its 2012 International Congress.
Congress Organiser Nick Bastow said progress on the 3-day event scheduled to open Melbourne on 18 September could be followed at this PS News link.
“Just ‘like’ us” Mr Bastow said.
He said more than 120 speakers would be speaking at over 50 sessions during the event.
Open Day at GA
Geoscience Australia is to host an Open Day at its Canberra HQ this Sunday (19 August) as part of National Science Week.
A diverse program of activities, science displays, tours and talks will be presented, showcasing GA’s work in the fields of petroleum, mineral, marine, mapping, groundwater and natural hazard research.
More information is available from this PS News link.
Ministers to meet at Cairns
Cairns (QLD) is to host a G20 Finance Ministers’ and Central Bank Governors’ meeting in 2014.
The G20 Finance Ministers’ and Central Bank Governors’ meetings are a critical part of the preparatory process to support the Leaders’ summit which will be held in Brisbane.
A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has shown the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people within the juvenile justice system has fallen in recent years.
The report, Juvenile justice in Australia 201011 found Indigenous young people under 17 were 24 times as likely as non-Indigenous young people to be in detention.
It said however the over-representation of Indigenous young people who were under community-based supervision had fallen slightly - from 15 times as likely in 200708 to 14 times as likely in 201011.
The report can be accessed at this PS News link.
AFP to fight piracy
An extension of the Australian Federal Police’s secondment to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has been announced.
Australia will provide a further $2 million in assistance to help tackle piracy in the Indian Ocean.
More than 5,000 Australians with disability who had been unemployed for at least two years have found jobs under the Wage Connect initiative.
Since it began in January, Wage Connect has helped over 9,000 people into paying jobs, with over 5,000 being people in receipt of a Disability Support Pension or identifying themselves as having a disability.
In 2009, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that the workforce participation rate of people with disability was 54 per cent, compared to 83 per cent for people with no reported disability.
Donor conception response out
The Government has released its response to the Senate and Legal Constitutional Affairs References Committee’s report into the issue of donor conception.
The report, Donor Conception Practices in Australia was released on 9 February 2011.
The Government said it had reviewed the report in depth and had considered all of the recommendations in great detail.
The response can be accessed at this PS News link.
14 August, 2012
Terror laws to
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) is to review counter-terrorism measures in place across Australia since 2005.
The review was announced by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard who said it would examine Commonwealth, State and Territory counter-terrorism legislation introduced after the London terrorist bombings.
“It will look at control orders, preventative detention and certain ‘emergency stop, question and search’ powers held by police,” Ms Gillard said.
“Terrorism is an ever-present threat and the review of our laws is important to ensure that our laws remain necessary and provide effective powers for our police and security agencies.”
She said Anthony Whealy would chair the COAG Review with other members of the Review Committee including Judge David Jones, Richard Bingham, Commander Justine Saunders, Assistant Commissioner Mike Condon and Graeme Davidson.
She said the Review Committee would provide a written report to COAG within six months.
“The Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, which was established in 2010, also reviews Commonwealth counter-terrorism and national security laws,” Ms Gillard said.
“While the Monitor’s role is separate, the Review Committee will liaise with the Monitor, Bret Walker SC, on this review.”
She said the review had no relationship to the examination of potential national security reforms being conducted by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.
More information on the COAG exercise can be accessed at this PS News link.
14 August, 2012
Refugee panel beats
The Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers has released its report on policy options for discouraging refugees from risking their lives on dangerous boat journeys to Australia.
out new policy
The Panel, made up of former Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, former Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Michael L’Estrange and human rights campaigner Paris Aristotle made 22 recommendations.
Air Chief Marshal Houston said the Panel advised a policy approach that was “hard-headed but not hard-hearted” and was “realistic not idealistic”.
Professor L’Estrange said the Panel believed the current Australian policy needed adjustments and Mr Aristotle said the Panel was deeply concerned about the tragic loss of life at sea.
“It is the Panel’s view that the balance of risk and incentive must be shifted in favour of regular migration pathways and established international protections, and against dangerous maritime migration,” Professor L’Estrange said.
“We also believe that a ‘no advantage’ principle should apply whereby irregular migrants gain no benefit by choosing to circumvent regular migration mechanisms.”
Responding to the deaths of 964 asylum seekers and crew since 2001, Mr Aristotle said to do nothing was “unacceptable”.
“We have proposed a new approach,” he said.
“One that is comprehensive, integrated and equitable.”
He said the panel believed its recommendations met the tests of reasonableness, fairness and humanitarian need.”
Among its recommendations the Panel proposed increasing the Humanitarian Program to 20,000 places per annum with 12,000 reserved for refugees; offering incentives to asylum seekers to seek protection through established systems; and putting more work into developing a regional cooperation framework on protection and asylum systems .
The Panel’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
14 August, 2012
Present costs hit
The Department of Finance and Deregulation has issued a discussion paper on the best way to account for costs when calculating cash balances in the Future Fund.
Under the rules guiding the Future Fund, its earnings from investments are not included in its cash balance to ensure they are not used by the Government for recurrent expenditure but applied instead to meeting future superannuation payments to Commonwealth Public Servants.
The costs associated with the investments are met from the earnings however.
“Given the growing materiality of the Future Fund’s costs and the effect they are having on the underlying cash balance calculation, the Government considers it is an appropriate time to review the budget treatment of these costs,” Finance said.
“This paper has been produced to facilitate consultation by examining the current budget treatment of the Future Fund’s costs and discussing potential alternatives.”
It said over the first few years of its operation, Future Fund costs had a relatively small impact on the underlying cash balance so their treatment was not a material issue.
“However, in recent years, Future Fund costs have grown as the Future Fund has invested in more complex financial assets with higher investment management fees,” it said.
“Since, under the Future Fund Act 2006, the Future Fund is required to meet its operating costs from its earnings, only the Future Fund’s net earnings are available for reinvestment to meet the Government’s future superannuation costs.”
The Department said it was important to note that there were no accounting principles guiding the Budget treatment of the Future Fund.
“There are also no international standards for the Budget treatment of entities such as the Future Fund,” it said.
“The Government will consider the future treatment of Future Fund costs prior to the 2012-13 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.
Interested parties are encouraged to consider and comment on the alternatives outlined in the paper which can be accessed at this PS News link.
Comments can be emailed to email@example.com and will be accepted up until 31 August.
14 August, 2012
Centrelink links up
Students are now able to update or check their Centrelink payments via a new app launched for iPhone and iPod touch.
with student app
Minister for Human Services, Senator Kim Carr said the Express Plus Students app was the first developed by the Department of Human Services and would help make life easier for up to 350,000 students who received Youth Allowance, Austudy or AbStudy.
“This app gives students more flexibility to manage their obligations to the Department of Human Services,” Senator Carr said.
“It is simple, user-friendly and will save people time.”
He said students could complete the most common reporting requirements quickly and easily from any location - without having to call or visit an office.
“They can report employment income, update course details and check their account history,” he said.
Senator Carr said the app also helped prevent debt by sending Push Notifications when students had to report and kept payments accurate by helping to calculate work hours.
He said it would help prevent people from waiting on the phone.
“Centrelink is currently facing a period of very high demand, resulting in longer waiting times,” he said.
“This is one step towards reducing demand on the network”
He said while this app was a first for DHS, it wouldn’t be the last with “more to follow this year”.
Senator Carr said the Express Plus Students app was available for download from the ‘App Store’ and versions of the app for other platforms would be available soon.
14 August, 2012
A facts sheet to accompany home building and home contents insurance policies is a step closer with the release of an exposure draft Regulation and accompanying explanatory statement for the provision of the documents.
at a premium
Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, Bill Shorten said the facts sheets would reduce consumer confusion over what was covered in insurance policies.
Mr Shorten said by providing consumers with easier access to key information, the facts sheets would help ensure they were able to make more informed decisions about their insurance policies.
“Too often people fail to make informed decisions as a result of being confronted with lengthy and complex insurance contracts and product disclosure statements,” Mr Shorten said.
“These one page key facts sheets have been consumer-tested to ensure that they communicate the contents of policies clearly.
“The release of the exposure draft regulation is yet another step in the process of ensuring that consumers are provided with a fairer, more transparent insurance system.”
He said comments were being sought on the content, format, structure and provision of the Key Facts Sheet proposed in the draft Regulation which could be accessed at this PS News link.
14 August, 2012
Action plan takes
Airservices Australia has launched its inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan 2012-2016.
off at Airservices
Acting Chief Executive of Airservices, Andrew Clark said the plan was a four year vision for actions and targets that would promote opportunities for the Agency’s current and future Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff.
Mr Clark said the Action Plan took a holistic approach to creating meaningful and sustainable opportunities for Indigenous Australians across a range of roles and locations around Australia.
“It raises awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures and we aim to deliver on the actions and targets outlined in this plan over the next four years,” Mr Clark said.
“This includes boosting the number of Indigenous employees to at least 2.6 per cent of our workforce, commencing an Indigenous apprenticeship program, participating in the National Indigenous Cadetship Program and commencing an Indigenous scholarship program.
“This plan is an important framework for us to set and meet clear targets to improve the recognition and engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our organisation and also reflects our commitment to ensuring greater staff diversity.”
He said the plan was developed by Airservices’ Reconciliation Committee in consultation with Reconciliation Australia.
“Airservices will report back to Reconciliation Australia on what is achieved over the term of the plan,” he said.
The Reconciliation Action Plan can be accessed at this PS News link.
14 August, 2012
New recall app
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launched an Android version of its Recalls Australia app.
gets the call
Deputy Chair of the ACCC, Delia Rickard said the app provided easily accessible information on recalled consumer goods.
“The launch of this free app means people using an Android phone can now quickly and easily check Australian product recalls from their mobile phone,” Ms Rickard said.
“Knowing when products are recalled means consumers can act quickly to remove potentially harmful products from their homes.”
She said businesses would also find the app a useful additional tool to ensure products were removed from shelves.
“The app lists information for each recall, including the name of the product, where it was sold, any identifying features such as a batch number or use-by date, a description of the hazard and what to do if you have the product,” she said.
“It means that you can check recalls even when you’re out and about, such as shopping at garage sales where a recalled product may have unknowingly been made available for sale.
“The app also allows people to take a photo of a product they think is unsafe and report it to the ACCC using their phone.”
Ms Rickard said the app was based on data from the ACCC’s Recalls Australia website and is available from the Google Play store at no cost.
She said the ACCC would also shortly release a mobile friendly version of the website.
The website can be accessed at this PS News link.
14 August, 2012
Schools cash in on
A new teaching resource to help young Australians become more confident, informed and responsible financial consumers has been launched by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, Bernie Ripoll.
Mr Ripoll said the MoneySmart Teaching Primary Package was developed by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
He said the primary and secondary packages would be trialled in over 90 schools nationally with the aim of embedding consumer and financial literacy education into the new Australian Curriculum for students from Foundation to Year 10.
He said professional learning would be provided to at least 6,000 primary and secondary teachers, with the secondary package expected to be launched in December.
Mr Ripoll said ensuring young people knew how to handle money from an early age and had the skills and knowledge to make informed choices about their finances was critical to their long-term wellbeing and the future wellbeing of the Australian economy.
“Young people are growing up in a fast-paced consumer society where money is becoming increasingly ‘invisible’ and where there’s a growing range of choice and complexity in consumer and financial products,” Mr Ripoll said.
“The MoneySmart Teaching packages provide effective consumer and financial education, empowering young people to face these challenges.
“It’s never too early to be MoneySmart.”
He said the package for primary school teachers was part of the Helping Our Kids Understand Finances (HOKUF) initiative to improve financial literacy in schools.
He said a suite of online professional learning modules for teachers would supplement the package extending the reach of MoneySmart Teaching beyond those schools in the trial.
“The package has been developed through strong collaboration from education officials with the shared goal of supporting teachers and students,” Mr Ripoll said.
“This has been undertaken through a national partnership agreement with New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and the ACT.
“While not all jurisdictions were able to partner with ASIC, permission has been given by the relevant education departments for ASIC to work directly with schools and teachers so that there is a fair and consistent national approach.”
The new primary resources can be accessed at this PS News link.
14 August, 2012
Disability employment workers are to be given the skills to identify and support people living with mental illness.
to enable workers
A new training program has been announced by the Minister for Employment Participation, Kate Ellis.
Ms Ellis said the Mental Health Capacity Building e-learning package would help people living with mental illness who were often excluded from the workforce, in part because of a lack of information.
“As a community, we need to provide the support that’s needed,” Ms Ellis said.
“With increased awareness, understanding and training when it comes to mental health, through this new training package, we can help frontline staff to connect people with the services and support they need.”
She said over $100,000 had been allocated to the Mental Health Capacity Building e-learning package which would help employment service providers better identify and assist people with mental ill health to get work.
Minister for Mental Health, Mark Butler said as a part of the National Mental Health Reform package, a more effective and responsive system was being built to better support people living with mental illness, their carers and their families.
“It’s important that this training has been developed with input from a wide range of mental health organisations, leading psychiatric rehabilitation services and employment service provider peak bodies to ensure the training can make a practical difference for both people with mental illness and employment workers,” Mr Butler said.
Minister for Human Services, Senator Kim Carr said the training would also make a difference for staff in the Department of Human Services, like frontline workers in Centrelink.
“Often people who are struggling with mental illness first come into contact with government services through our staff so what happens as a result of that initial contact can make all the difference to whether or not someone gets the support they need and the best chance of being able to get back to work,” Senator Carr said.
14 August, 2012
A new report affirming the compelling story of Australia’s progress as a nation has been launched by the Minister for Social Inclusion, Mark Butler.
Mr Butler said the Australian Social Inclusion Board’s 2012 How Australia is faring report showed the national economy continuing to defy international trends and outperform other advanced economies with solid growth and low unemployment.
“Yet 640,000 Australians still face complex and multiple levels of disadvantage each year,” Mr Butler said.
“With a strong economy comes the opportunity to ensure all Australians are able to share in our nation’s wealth.”
He said the report made it clear the commitment to addressing disadvantage was having a positive impact.
“It shows that Australians are doing well in a number of areas with more Australians finishing school, older people being employed at higher rates than ever before, high and increasing life expectancy,” he said.
Mr Butler said while Australia had made good progress in many areas, the report also served as a reminder that continued prosperity was reliant on everyone who could participate in society having the resources and opportunity to do so.
“For the approximately 5 per cent of Australians, some 640,000 people, facing severe levels of disadvantage, we need to do more,” he said.
“In the last few years we have made substantial investments in mental health reform, reducing homelessness and we have looked to change the way we deliver services to citizens in our most disadvantaged communities.
He said the report would help guide continued funding in areas including health and disability, employment, reducing financial stress, education, access to services, housing, public safety, and community engagement.
“I would like to thank the Board, under the stewardship of its immediate past Chair, Patricia Faulkner, for their work in developing this important report,” Mr Butler said.
The Social Inclusion Board’s 2012 report can be accessed at this PS News link.
14 August, 2012
Families with a child turning four this financial year have been urged to take the child for a health check to help ensure he or she is fit, healthy and ready to start school.
are tot to trot
Minister for Human Services, Senator Kim Carr said around 77,000 families receiving income support payments and Family Tax Benefit (FTB) Part A would receive a letter this month about the health check.
“Everyone knows how important education is to increasing opportunities in life,” Senator Carr said.
“Getting a health check will help children’s chances of being successful at school.
“Problems can be identified early, and solutions sought.”
He said once parents or carers had taken their child for a health check, they needed to tell Centrelink so they could receive their FTB Part A supplement of up to $726.35 for that child at the end of the financial year.
“Centrelink has made it quick and easy for parents to report when the health check has been completed, so their supplement payment won’t be affected,” he said.
“Parents who have already registered for online services can simply log in and confirm their health check information.
“If families aren’t registered for online services they can use their customer reference number and the one time access code in their letter to go online and update the information in a matter of minutes - they don’t need to call.”
Senator Carr said the health checks could be completed from three years of age.
“A Healthy Kids Check, an age-appropriate health check by State and Territory child and maternal health clinic, or a health check conducted by a registered health professional - such as a local doctor, practice nurse or registered Aboriginal health worker - will meet the requirements,” he said.
Senator Carr reminded parents who still needed to report health checks for their children from last financial year to do so as soon possible.
“As soon as parents tell Centrelink, the FTB Part A supplement payment for that child can be reassessed,” he said.
14 August, 2012
The real story of outback Australia is now on show at the National Library of Australia in Canberra (NLA).
The display Beyond the Furthest Fences: the Australian Inland Mission celebrates 100 years of life-saving work by the Australian Inland Mission (AIM) now Frontier Services and its founder the Reverend John Flynn.
The NLA said that in 1912, Reverend Flynn and the Presbyterian Church established the AIM.
“Their aim was to ease the isolation of outback Australians through the tireless work of nurses, volunteers and roving ministers and this led to the development of the Flying Doctor Service and the pedal-powered radio,” the NLA said.
“At its height, dedicated AIM staff looked after an area in excess of three million square kilometres.”
It said as an avid amateur photographer, Reverend Flynn documented the early work of AIM, using his photographs to help promote the cause to the rest of Australia.
“In 1977, Frontier Services presented more than 4,000 images to the National Library so this invaluable record of the dedication of pioneering missionaries and the hardships they endured would be preserved for all Australians to see,” it said.
“The images in this display range from nurses proudly showing off a bush hospital’s latest arrivals to operating a pedal-powered wireless from the verandah of an outback home to two reverends pulling their car through a bog on the Cape York track.
“Today, as AIM celebrates its centenary, Frontier Services continues to carry out life-saving work, providing medical, physical and spiritual support to isolated inland communities,” the Library said.
Beyond the Furthest Fences: the Australian Inland Mission collection is a free display that will run until 11 August next year at National Library of Australia in Canberra.
10 August, 2012
A revised corporate plan for the National Broadband Network (NBN) has revealed a $1.3 billion cost increase and a six month delay in progress.
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said NBN Co’s Corporate Plan 2012-15 said despite the setbacks, the NBN was on track to meet its target of having 758,000 premises hooked up or close to it by the end of 2012.
Senator Conroy said the new plan also showed that the Network would generate a 7 per cent return to the taxpayer despite wholesale broadband prices projected to fall.
He said the 6-month extension on the overall construction time was due to a nine month delay in the completion of a deal with Telstra and the increased capital costs still had the project coming in under its original $43 billion price tag.
“The assumptions and estimates in the 2010 business case have been reinforced or replaced with signed supply contracts, firm agreements, operational experience, and regulatory certainty,” Senator Conroy said.
“These developments give greater certainty to NBN Co in delivering the Government’s commitment to provide all Australians with fast and reliable broadband.”
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong said since the deal with Optus had been finalised and approved by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), NBN Co could now also factor it in.
“As Optus customers are migrated to the NBN, this will result in increased revenue to NBN Co, as well as higher operating expenses,” Senator Wong said.
She said high speed broadband was an essential utility for the 21st century, like water and electricity.
“The NBN will boost productivity and provide the foundation for an efficient and future ready economy,” she said.
NBN Co’s Corporate Plan 2012-15 can be accessed at this PS News link.
10 August, 2012
Call for PS to call
Public Service Departments and Agencies should spend more time and money training their staff in the use of social media, according to former Gov 2 strategist Craig Thomler.
up social media
Speaking to the Institute of Public Administration Australia’s Western Australian branch in the lead up its RightClick 2012 Conference, Mr Thomler said many PS staff members were already active users of social media in their personal lives and could put their skills to great use at work.
“Social media has the capability for agencies to bring in expertise from outside their walls, crowdsourcing ideas and approaches,” Mr Thomler said.
“Australian governments have largely been late adopters of modern media and communication technologies for the last 20 or so years, with a few notable exceptions.
He said however that he did believe the public sector would “get there”.
“I think relationships are more about how governments and the public engage, not as much about the channels used for engagement,” he said.
“A government who uses social media can be as out-of-touch as one who does not although it is harder to ignore the public’s voices.”
Mr Thomler said training was important because even if Public Servants already used social media in their private lives, those experiences didn’t necessarily involve the same channels, skills or decision-making expertise as official use would.
“A useful comparison is between driving on a road and driving in a race,” he said.
“Most adult Australians can drive a car competently for everyday life, however few have the experience, judgement and skill necessary to compete at a professional racing level.
“Training on social media helps even experienced personal users of social media to develop the right reflexes and experience to engage on behalf of agencies, skills such as moderation, writing for the web, how to use channels that they may not use in their personal lives and how to select the appropriate social media channels for a particular goal.”
Information about RightClick2012 can be accessed at this PS News link.
10 August, 2012
AEC still alive in
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has been nominated for a Deadly Award for ‘Outstanding Achievement in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education’.
The Awards celebrate excellence across national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music, education, employment, health and community development.
Director of the Indigenous Electoral Participation Program at the AEC, Bob Eckhardt, said the nomination recognised the AEC’s work in encouraging Indigenous Australians to enrol and vote through the Indigenous Electoral Participation Program (IEPP).
“IEPP was established in 2010 to close the gap in Indigenous disadvantage in electoral participation, as Indigenous Australians are significantly less likely to enrol, less likely to vote and more likely to vote informally than non-Indigenous Australians,” Mr Eckhardt said.
“This means Indigenous Australians are missing out on the opportunity and responsibility to fully participate in the democratic process and to hold governments to account.”
He said IEPP was working in a variety of ways across Australia to increase electoral knowledge, enrolment and participation of Indigenous people.
“A core component is building strong relationships with Indigenous communities and 25 IEPP field officers, 17 of whom are Indigenous, are visiting and delivering face-to-face education sessions Australia-wide,” he said.
Mr Eckhardt said 2012 marked the 50th anniversary of Indigenous Australians gaining the right to vote in Federal elections.
“Encouraging Indigenous Australians to participate in the electoral process is a continuing priority for the AEC, but it is particularly important now as Australia considers amendments to the Constitution to recognise Indigenous Australians,” he said.
Voting in the Deadly Awards closes on 9 September with the winners announced at a function at the Sydney Opera House on 25 September.
10 August, 2012
A national security program for schools and colleges has been extended to pre-schools with 21 around Australia to receive funding to upgrade fencing; install closed-circuit television and bollards; and improve lighting.
to security funding
Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice, Jason Clare said the safety upgrades would be provided under the third round of the Secure Schools Program.
“This funding will make preschools safer, providing peace of mind for staff and parents,” Mr Clare said.
“In February this year I expanded the criteria to include preschools under the third round of the Secure Schools Program following a meeting with the Jewish Schools community in Victoria.
“It makes sense to include pre-schools, which face many of the same security issues as other schools.”
He said the Secure Schools program was a targeted program aimed at schools at risk of racial, religious or ethnically motivated violence, property crime or harassment.
MP for Melbourne Ports, Michael Danby welcomed the announcement saying the funding was vital for the Jewish school community in his area and across Australia.
“People targeting our schools do not differentiate between preschools, primary schools or high schools,” Mr Danby said.
“Earlier this year we saw the tragedy in France where four people died at a Jewish preschool.
“I am pleased to see this funding being provided to help keep our preschools safe.”
Mr Clare said the pre-schools to join the program were nominated by the States and Territories and independent schools associations before being invited to apply for funding, with the most urgent security needs selected.
10 August, 2012
Survey lifts lid on
New research results showing most public and community housing tenants were satisfied with the quality of their housing has been welcomed by the Acting Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Julie Collins.
Ms Collins said the National social housing survey State and Territories results 2010 collated by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare provided a snapshot of the community and social housing sector, providing vital information on the experiences of tenants.
“Finding a secure place to call home is critical in ending the cycle of homelessness and it’s encouraging that this report found public and community housing provides long-term security to many tenants,” Ms Collins said.
She said around 90 per cent of social housing tenants felt more settled and more than two-thirds enjoyed better health.
“The survey paints a detailed picture of the mix of tenants and their experiences and its findings will help us compare the data against other results such as the 2011 Census,” she said.
Ms Collins said the report also found the majority of tenants were over 55 years of age and of those, 63 per cent were in public housing and 51 per cent in community housing.
She said other findings included evidence that public and community housing tenants had lower labour force participation rates and education levels as well as higher rates of disability; and about one in five public housing tenants and one in three community housing tenants had been homeless at some time in their lives.
“The Australian Government believes all Australians are entitled to a safe, affordable home and this research reinforces our decision to make housing and homelessness a priority,” the Acting minister said.
“Our $5.6 billion Social Housing Initiative is the single largest investment in social housing ever undertaken by an Australian Government.
“We’re building almost 20,000 homes across the nation under this initiative and already 18,800 of these have been completed.”
Ms Collins said the Commonwealth was also working with State and Territory governments to introduce a National Regulatory System for Community Housing Providers.
“Nationally consistent regulations will promote the growth of the community housing sector across Australia,” she said.
10 August, 2012
A new body to improve the quality of child care and make it more affordable and accessible has been established by the Minister for Early Childhood and Child Care, Kate Ellis.
to show and tell
Ms Ellis said the Early Childhood Stakeholder Forum would include representatives from the private and not-for-profit early childhood sectors, national peak bodies, unions, parents and educators.
“It was clear from the discussions at the Prime Minister’s summit that we share a common goal of providing high quality early education and flexible care to families,” Ms Ellis said.
“This forum is part of our ongoing commitment to continue to consult with the sector as we build on the Government’s reforms in early childhood education and care.
“We want to ensure young Australians get the very best start in life as well as take the pressure off families.”
She said the Forum was “a fantastic opportunity for those who are involved in early childhood education and care everyday to talk directly to the Government about their ideas to improve child care outcomes”.
She said $22.3 billion in Commonwealth funding had been allocated to support the sector over the next four years.
“We have more than tripled the investment of the previous government to help families using child care and to improve the sector generally, because we are serious about investing in Australian children,” Ms Ellis said.
She said the forum would provide valuable assistance to the Government “as we continue working to improve the system to support Australian families and their children”.
10 August, 2012
Geoscience Australia has released a revised guidebook to the spectacular landform shapes of Uluru and Kata Tjuta which dominate the desert of central Australia.
with Uluru book
Chief Executive of Geoscience Australia, Chris Pigram said the book, Uluru and Kata Tjuta: a geological guide, included an authoritative account of the geological history of the World Heritage-listed landscape, as well as a guide for visitors seeking to explore and appreciate the scenic beauty and geological features of Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
“The Anangu people, the traditional owners of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park who have occupied the area for thousands of years, have complex explanations for the landscape features which complement those provided by modern geological studies,” Dr Pigram said.
He said the book included many photographs highlighting the features that could be seen during a walking tour around Uluru and Kata Tjuta, as well as a glossary of geological terms.
“Uluru and Kata Tjuta are amongst some of the oldest landforms on Earth, with the rocks having been dated at around 540 to 550 million years old,” he said.
“The stark outcrops we now see began to stand out as features in the landscape about 100 million years ago.”
Dr Pigram said geologically speaking Uluru was the exposed tip of a huge vertical body of rock (otherwise known as an inselberg) which literally meant ‘island mountain’ or monolith.
He said the rock extended far below the surrounding plain for between three and five kilometres.
The book is available for purchase from this PS News link.
10 August, 2012
Obstacle removed for
The NSW Government’s decision to decommission its state register of organ donors has been welcomed by the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King, and the Minister for Human Services, Senator Kim Carr.
The move frees up NSW residents to register for an organ donation through a single national program the Australian Organ Donor Register.
Ms King said it would also help increase organ donation in NSW and could ultimately save lives.
“It aligns with the Australian Government’s National Reform Agenda to increase organ and tissue donation for transplantation,” Ms King said.
She said people who registered their donation decision on the Australian Organ Donor Register had access to extensive information about organ and tissue donation, whereas ‘ticking a box’ on a driver’s licence was a barrier to making a truly informed decision.
“I encourage all NSW residents to go to the DonateLife website to register their organ and tissue donation decision on the Australian Organ Donor Register,” she said.
“This website provides a variety of resources to help you discover the facts, decide, and register your donation decision on the Australian Organ Donor Register.
“Most importantly, discuss your donation decision with family members.”
Senator Carr said the single national register helped people make a clear decision about donation.
“The Australian Organ Donor Register administered by the Department of Human Services gives people access to the information they need to make a decision about donation,” Senator Carr said.
The DonateLife website can be accessed at this PS News link.
10 August, 2012
Rights paper right
A new paper outlining a human rights approach to the health and aged care sectors has been released by the Commissioner for Age Discrimination, Susan Ryan.
for aged care
Ms Ryan said the paper, Respect and choice: A human rights approach for ageing and health outlined a human rights approach to implementing the Federal Government’s new aged care reform package entitled Living Longer Living Better.
“Australia’s health system and aged care sectors are about to expand dramatically,” Ms Ryan said, “to take account of the longer lives we are living.”
She said while the new reform package contained increases in assistance, particularly for home based care, it was important the new arrangements were built on a human rights approach.
“By adopting a human rights approach, we will be able to expect services that are available, accessible, appropriate and of good quality,” she said.
“We also want to see effective monitoring mechanisms and ensure accountability.”
“Put simply, we are talking about ensuring that older people have choices in care, are provided with information about what is happening to them and have their privacy protected.”
Ms Ryan said whether care was being provided at home or in residential facilities, providers needed training that created respect for the religious choices, sexual orientation and cultural backgrounds of the older people in their care.
She said the approach adopted in the new paper reflected a declaration by the United Nations Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights of ‘the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health’.
The Human Rights Commission paper Respect and choice can be accessed at this PS News link.
10 August, 2012
And in other news...
Super decision soon
A court case involving six former Public Servants seeking changes to their Commonwealth superannuation entitlements is likely to be decided next month.
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) has reported that the ACT Supreme Court judge who reserved his decision on the case in 2009 is about to hand down his decisions.
The six former staff claimed they had been negligently excluded from their superannuation scheme despite spending 15 years employed as temporaries.
A new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Ombudsman of the Solomon Islands (OOSI).
The MoU formally commits the two offices to work in partnership to strengthen the OOSI’s capacity to perform its mandated functions.
Defence in blood quest
Australia’s largest blood donation event has been officially launched at the Australian Red Cross Blood Service Donation Centre in Canberra.
The annual Defence Organisation Blood Challenge challenges members of the Navy, Army, Air Force as well as Defence civilians to compete between 1 September and 30 November to see who can make the greatest number of blood donations.
The goal is to achieve over 3000 donations in the three-month period.
Tourists go electric
The first electric safari-style bus to be built in Australia has been pressed into service carrying passengers to the World Heritage listed Mossman Gorge section of the Daintree Tropical Rainforest in Queensland.
The seven buses feature distinctive designs from the local Kuku Yalanji culture.
ANU launches scholarship
A new scholarship has been announced at The Australian National University (ANU) to help Indigenous students take on more university studies.
The Garrurru Scholarships at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific will provide current and future students of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent up to $20,000 to put towards their studies or associated costs.
The scholarship has been named after the artwork Garrurru, which was donated to the College by the renowned Indigenous artist, the late Gulumbu Yunupingu.
Wet Tropics attract visitors
The Wet Tropics have been announced as Australia’s 14th National Landscape.
The National Landscapes Program identifies Australia’s best nature destinations, helping locals refocus and refine what they’re offering visitors and market the ‘natural competitive advantage’ to the world.
The program is led by a partnership between Tourism Australia and Parks Australia.
Overhaul for safety policy
The Department of Finance and Deregulation has drafted an updated Work Health and Safety Policy to replace its old Health and Safety Management Arrangements.
The policy will be available for comment by staff on both the Department’s intranet and internet for a period of three weeks until 24 August.
It can be accessed at this PS News link.
IPAA announces scholarships
Two State-based Public Servants have won scholarships from the Institute of Public Administration Australia to attend a New Professionals Conference in New Zealand this week.
The winners, Julia De Luca from the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment and Timothy Bayl from the NSW Department of Education and Communities were identified as members of the next generation of PS leaders, thinkers and policy
The scholarships are for nominees under the age of 34 who are active in the events of the IPAA.
AGIMO paper for comment
The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has released its draft Strategic Approach to Cloud Implementation for public comment.
The guide forms the last component of the Cloud Framework that is a ‘Stream One deliverable’ of the Australian Government Cloud Computing Strategic Direction Paper.
The draft can be accessed at this PS News link and submissions close 22 August.
ANU tops fellow list
The Australian National University (ANU) has topped the nation in Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowships, winning four out of 17, more than any other Australian university.
Three ANU scholars, and one who will move to ANU to take up a fellowship, will receive a total of $11.8 million to pursue their research.
Tax volunteers get to work
The Australian Taxation Office is providing 1,200 accredited volunteers to serve at community centres across Australia to help people through tax time.
The volunteers will be at 850 centres nationally to provide free services (by appointment) until the end of October.
More information is available by calling phone 13 28 61.
$12M boost for crime fund
More than $12 million has been forfeited as proceeds of crime after an investigation involving the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the US Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).
The investigation looked into the activities of an illegal investment scheme based in the United States.
Navy seminar for Sydney
A special seminar is to be held at the Australian National Maritime Museum later this month to explore the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) current operations.
The seminar on 12 August will also look into state-of-the-art additions to the RAN’s fleet that will form the Navy of tomorrow.
More information is available from this PS News link.
Gudinski to lecture
Music entrepreneur, Mike Gudinski is to deliver the 2012 National Film and Sound Archive Thomas Rome Lecture.
The Lecture will be presented at Melbourne Town Hall on 13 August and will also feature a special performance from 2012 Sounds of Australia patron, musician and producer David Bridie.
Authority approves dogs’ dinner
A proposal to allow dogs in outdoor areas of eating establishments has been approved by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).
The Food Standards Code previously barred animals, other than assistance animals, in areas where food was handled.
A number of jurisdictions have regulated to allow pet dogs in outdoor dining areas however, resulting in an inconsistent approach across Australia.
An assessment for FSANZ found the risk of foodborne transmission of disease from pet dogs in outdoor settings to humans was very low to negligible.
7 August, 2012
NBN Guide to
The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has published a guide to using the National Broadband Network (NBN) for Government Departments and Agencies.
The publication, Using the NBN to improve government service delivery: A practical guide for Government Agencies has been developed to “excite’ PS agencies about the potential of the NBN and to “spur ideas for how it can be applied in a range of government contexts.”
“It (the NBN) will enable fast and ubiquitous delivery of government services and programs, leading to better outcomes for Australian communities,” the guide says.
“The NBN also has the potential to reduce the cost of government service provision, a desirable outcome for agencies at all levels of government in today’s fiscal environment.
“This guide also explains the link between the ideas that you generate and the approach used to effectively trial these ideas based on the Best Practice Implementation Framework that was developed during 2011.”
According to DBCDE, every agency consulted during the development of the guide was able to cite examples of how they wished their services could be delivered more effectively and efficiently.
“Governments the world over are trying to work out how they can improve their efficiency and Australia is no exception,” the Department says in the guide.
“The performance, reliability, ubiquity and affordability of the NBN has the potential to improve collaboration between government and Australian communities, through advanced video services, that can enhance the way current services are provided and can even help stimulate the creation of new products and services altogether.”
The guide says there were many examples in Australia and around the world that demonstrated how government agencies were using technologies like the NBN to improve their service delivery.
“Whilst some of these are major innovations that push the boundaries of what the technology can enable, most are creative applications of video-based collaboration across a range of typical government services,” it says.
The 144-page guide can be accessed at this PS News link.
7 August, 2012
School teachers to
All Australian schoolteachers are to undergo annual performance assessments under a new agreement reached by State and Territory Education Ministers.
be put to the test
Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett said a new Australian Teacher Performance and Development Framework was agreed to by all the Education Ministers and would be implemented in schools across the country from next year.
“For the first time, teachers will be entitled to a yearly review of their progress, and will receive ongoing support and training throughout their career to help them become even better teachers,” Mr Garrett said.
“Every parent wants to be confident their child is being taught by a teacher who is dedicated, professional, and who is doing a great job in helping their students reach their full potential.”
He said once implemented, the new agreement would mean schools could give teachers feedback on their performance which would be based on evidence collected from classroom observation, parental and student feedback, and student results.
He said teachers would have to set goals for the year.
“Those who are found to be under-performing or who need extra support will be given access to more training and development opportunities,” Mr Garrett said.
He said the new framework would assess teachers against the National Professional Standards for Teachers.
Copies of the newly-endorsed Australian Teacher Performance and Development Framework can be accessed at this PS News link.
7 August, 2012
New institution in
A new institution is to be created to better promote philanthropy, sponsorship and business support for the arts.
frame for arts
Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean said the new body would replace the Australia Business Arts Foundation (AbaF) and Artsupport Australia program.
Mr Crean said recent reviews of private sector support for the arts and the operations of the Australia Council, both recommended a single body be established to drive private sector sponsorship.
“This recognises the importance of a partnership approach to investing in the arts,” mr Crean said.
“To meet the demand for investment, there must be a strong investment partnership between governments, the private sector and the community.”
He said the new institution would build on the successes of AbaF and Artsupport and place a dedicated focus on attracting private sector support through philanthropy, sponsorship and business support.
“It will join the dots between facilitating private giving and philanthropy, encouraging sponsorship and corporate giving, building partnerships between artists, business and private donors, and recognising the contribution of philanthropists and the business sector in supporting the arts,” he said.
“Strong partnerships will play a vital role in delivering the objectives set in the National Cultural Policy.”
Mr Crean said the review put forward a suite of recommendations that, if implemented, would establish the right conditions to broaden and strengthen the base of giving to the arts.
“The challenge is then for the arts sector, philanthropists and business, to forge strong and long-term partnerships to take advantage of those conditions,” he said.
Mr Crean said the new body would commence on 1 July 2013 with more details released with the National Cultural Policy due to be unveiled later this year.
7 August, 2012
Inspector punches out
A review of the use alternative dispute resolution in the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has revealed opportunities for the ATO to improve its practices.
tax dispute report
Conducted by the Inspector-General of Taxation (IGT), Ali Noroozi, the review made 22 recommendations.
In his report, Review into the Australian Taxation Office’s use of early and Alternative Dispute Resolution, Mr Noroozi said the investigation was prompted by concerns raised by stakeholders that the ATO was not making sufficient use of dispute resolution opportunities, instead preferring taxpayers to launch disputes through formal channels.
“The Commissioner of Taxation also requested that the IGT undertake this review,” Mr Noroozi said.
“The review received a high level of interest and the IGT received over 40 written and oral submissions.”
He said he recognised the ATO’s current work program to enhance its dispute resolution framework.
“The report notes that a large portion of matters brought to litigation, particularly in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), are resolved prior to hearing,” Mr Noroozi said.
“Statistics provided by the AAT show that approximately 90 per cent of matters are resolved without hearing and further statistics from the ATO show that many of these are resolved as a result of new or additional information being identified.
“Such statistics suggest a significant opportunity for earlier resolution of tax disputes through better information exchange and engagement including the use of ADR.”
Mr Noroozi recommended the Government consider amending the tax laws to give the Commissioner of Taxation the power to extend the objection period, at the taxpayer’s request.
Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury said the ATO had agreed with 20 of the Inspector-General’s 21 recommendations that affected it, either fully, in principle or in part.
“The ATO has already embarked on a significant program of work to encourage the use of ADR and I encourage the ATO to continue its work in this area,” Mr Bradbury said.
The Inspector-General’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
7 August, 2012
The Institute of Public Administration Australia’s (IPAA) NSW State Conference and Premier’s address is to be streamed live across Australia via a free webcast.
live on web
The event will commence at 9am this Thursday (9 August) with viewers able to watch the entire conference or choose individual keynote presentations.
President of IPAA NSW, Peter Achterstraat said with public administrations around the world under intense pressure to deliver services for citizens that were personalised, integrated, and high quality; the State conference would explore strategies to unlock the potential for innovation and improvement in service delivery.
Mr Achterstraat said NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell, and a former head of the Canadian Public Sector, Jocelyne Bourgon would address the conference, exploring the theme Engage, Collaborate, Innovate: Getting serious on customer service.
He said the conference program had been designed by representatives from all levels of government and would combine local, national and international perspectives through a blend of concurrent sessions, panel discussions and keynote presentations.
“The IPAA NSW 2012 State Conference will provide delegates with a unique opportunity to engage with other public sector professionals and discuss the changes required at the interface of frontline public services and citizens,” Mr Achterstraat said.
“Close to 300 delegates have registered for the conference including decision makers from all levels and areas of public administration, academia and the private sector.
“With the conference nearly booked out, streaming the keynote presentations live to the web will benefit public service professionals in regional areas as well as in other States.”
More information on the conference and the webcast is available from this PS News link.
The webcast is being made possible by sponsorship support from the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet.
7 August, 2012
Climate change puts
A climate change report that projects warmer weather and less predictable rainfall for the Pacific has been presented to Government leaders in Tuvalu and Kiribati.
heat on islands
Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles said the report Climate Change in the Pacific: Scientific Assessment and New Research by CSIRO and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology projected increasing temperatures, more very hot days, more extreme rainfall days and rising sea levels for both Tuvalu and Kiribati.
“These rigorous scientific projections are an important piece of work,” Mr Marles said.
“They highlight the challenges the Pacific is facing now and in the future as a result of the effects of climate change.”
He said the report’s projections under a high emissions scenario were for temperature increases for Kiribati of 0.3°C to 1.3°C and 0.4°C to 1°C for Tuvalu by 2030.
He said projections were for an increase in average, seasonal and extreme rainfall days as well as sea level rises of four to 14cm by 2030.
“Australia is strongly committed to addressing the impacts of climate change,” Mr Marles said.
“We have been steadfast in our support for small island developing states such as Kiribati and Tuvalu.
“To address climate change impacts in Tuvalu, Australia has provided 757 water tanks for households and schools so they can increase their capacity to store clean water.
“Support in Kiribati includes $8.6 million for the Kiribati Adaptation Program and $13.9 million to improve sanitation in the capital, Tarawa.”
7 August, 2012
Taxman scores million
Over a million taxpayers have already chosen to lodge their tax returns online this year, just over a month into the new financial year.
in e-tax returns
Commissioner for Tax, Michael D’Ascenzo said the milestone brought the total number of electronic lodgements since the official launch of e-tax in 1999 to 18.5 million.
“Last year 2.6 million self-preparers used e-tax to lodge their tax return with almost 74% of them choosing to use the pre-fill service,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
He said ‘pre-filling’ helped people complete their tax return by downloading information the ATO had received from employers, financial institutions, government agencies and others straight into the relevant questions in e-tax.
He said it was a service that saved the taxpayer time and helped ensure the tax return was correct.
Mr D’Ascenzo said all the taxpayer needed to do then was check their information and add any missing details.
He said the ATO’s work with employers, financial institutions and others to ensure the information was available as early as possible in the pre-filling service had meant more than 65 per cent of the expected information for this year had already been received.
“If all your information is not available through the pre-filling service when you start preparing your e-tax return you can subscribe to our alerts service in e-tax and we will send you an email or SMS when new or updated information becomes available,” the Commissioner said.
“The ATO is committed to making the lodgement of income tax returns fast and easy.
“This year most Australian taxpayers who are expecting a refund and lodge electronically will have it in 12 business days or less.”
The e-tax option is available from the ATO website and can be downloaded from this PS News link.
7 August, 2012
Bullying toolkit a
Funding has been announced to develop new online toolkits to help parents, teachers, trainee teachers, and students deal with school bullying.
hit with parents
Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett announced the new toolkits during the first ever national anti-bullying forum at Parliament House which brought together education experts, teachers, parents, psychologists and young people to discuss which strategies worked and what the community needed to do to deal with bullying.
Mr Garrett said more than $4 million had been allocated to explore options for developing an Australia-wide social media campaign and a national “hub” of resources and information for parents, schools and students - two key ideas that had been suggested by participants at the forum.
“One of the main issues that emerged today is the need for a national education and awareness campaign that includes all schools, reaches into as many homes as possible and really helps increase people’s understanding of bullying and what they can do about it,” Mr Garrett said.
“So I’ve instructed the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to develop options for a national social media campaign that we can roll out in partnership with Sate and Territory Governments and the non-government school sectors.
“It’s really important that we get help and advice to as many students as possible, and the best way to do that is communicate using the social media platforms that young people engage with every day.”
He said the Government would also look at how it could expand its existing website, www.bullyingnoway.gov.au, to transform it into the central, trusted source of information and resources for the whole community.
“We want to develop a ‘one-stop shop’ so everyone knows where to go for help,” he said.
Mr Garrett said the new resources would be rolled out for the 2013 school year.
7 August, 2012
New figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) have revealed Australians made a record eight million short-term trips overseas in 2011-12.
are all go
The ABS reported the number, up from 7.4 million trips in 2010-2011 and more than double the trips of 10 years ago.
Its report said the most popular destination for Australians going overseas on short-term visits (under a year) was New Zealand, with over 1.1 million journeys across the Tasman taken in the past financial year.
“The next most popular destinations were Indonesia (911,000 movements), the USA (819,000), Thailand (600,000) and the UK (487,000),” the report said.
“These top five destinations alone accounted for just under half of all short-term resident departures for the year.”
It said the most frequently cited reason for journey was for a holiday, making up over half (57 per cent) of all short-term resident departures.
“Other common reasons were visiting friends and relatives (23 per cent) and business (10 per cent),” it said.
“During 201112, Australian residents on short-term trips stated their average time overseas was 14 days.
“Short-term visitor arrivals on the other hand, recorded 6.0 million movements in 201112. Although the highest on record, this has remained relatively stable over recent years.”
The ABS said that until 2006-07 it was generally the case that there were more short-term visitors arriving in Australia than short-term residents departing.
“However, the opposite has been true since 200708 and in 2011-12 there were 2.1 million more short-term residents departing Australia than short-term visitors arriving,” it said.
The figures in the ABS report Overseas Arrivals and Departures, June 2012 can be downloaded from this PS News link.
7 August, 2012
Plain sailing for new
A network of Shipping Fairways has been created off the north-west coast of Australia to improve the safe movement of ships in the area and protect the marine environment.
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese announced the fairways saying commercial shipping was vital to Australia’s economy and with industrial and mining activity on the increase in Western Australia, so too was shipping.
“For busy shipping routes, it’s important we continue to increase navigational safety and reduce the risk of ship groundings and collisions,” Mr Albanese said.
“That is exactly what the new network of Shipping Fairways will do.
“Together, they will reduce the risk of collision by directing large vessels such as bulk carriers and LNG ships into pre-defined routes to keep them clear of offshore infrastructure such as oil and gas rigs.”
He said collisions in the area could potentially result in loss of life or damage to the pristine marine environment.
“The new Shipping Fairways are based on similar ship routeing arrangements in Australia and overseas that have proven successful in reducing the risk of collision,” Mr Albanese said.
He said the new network built on a number of other measures which aimed to ensure the laws and other arrangements that protected Australia’s marine environment were up to date and remained in step with international developments.
“With an expected doubling of shipping activity by 2020 we are planning for the future while protecting what we have today,” he said.
“Since 2007, we have expanded the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait Vessel Traffic Service (REEFVTS), established North East Shipping Management Group and proposed greater protections around Ningaloo Reef.
“All measures designed to provide a safe passage for ships and protect and preserve our precious marine environment.”
He said vessels would begin to use the Shipping Fairways when electronic and paper navigational charts were progressively updated from this month onwards.
7 August, 2012
Seasonal workers to
A returning seasonal workforce will be available to Australian employers unable to source enough Australian workers under a new and expanded immigration program announced by the Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations, Senator Jacinta Collins.
spice up workplaces
Senator Collins said the Seasonal Worker Program commenced on 1 July and would provide a reliable, returning workforce for the horticulture sector, as well as a trial of seasonal labour mobility arrangements in four new sectors.
She said countries eligible to participate in the program included East Timor, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
“While horticulture remains the focus of the program, a targeted three-year trial will run in the aquaculture, cane, cotton and accommodation industries,” Senator Collins said.
“The program builds on the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme and will provide a shot in the arm to industries facing seasonal labour shortages.
“It will also provide for the return of seasonal workers in subsequent seasons where employers continue to have unmet demand for labour, delivering security for Australian industries.”
She said Australian employers would be required to demonstrate they had a commitment to employing Australian job seekers as a first priority; employed seasonal workers in accordance with Australian work standards; and contributed to their travel costs.
“It is important to note these positions are only available to Australian employers who have a demonstrated unmet demand for labour and a commitment to Australian job seekers,” Senator Collins said.
“This program will also make a significant contribution to the economic development of Pacific Island countries and East Timor.”
Senator Collins said seasonal workers would receive training in English literacy, numeracy, first aid and basic computer skills and would return home equipped with a range of new skills to increase their opportunities for further work.
7 August, 2012
Fair Work review has
A review of the Fair Work Act has found it to be operating as intended and in accordance with its legislated objectives.
Act working and fair
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten said the report Towards more productive and equitable workplaces: An evaluation of the Fair Work Act was prepared by an independent three member panel comprised of ex-Federal Court Judge Michael Moore, Emeritus Professor Ron McCallum and Reserve Bank Board Member John Edwards.
Mr Shorten said feedback had been provided in over 250 written submissions from a range of employers, employees, unions, community groups, lawyers and governments.
“Economic issues ranked high in the Panel’s assessment of the operation of the Act, given the considerable weight given to these objectives in the legislation, including promoting productive workplace relations, economic prosperity, achieving productivity and fairness”, Mr Shorten said.
He said the panel made 53 recommendations to Government.
“I thank panel members for the hard work which has gone into this comprehensive and evidence-based report,” he said.
“I also want to acknowledge the people, businesses and organisations who provided their submissions to the panel.”
Mr Shorten said he wanted to consult with the community and stakeholders on the recommendations provided by the panel.
“The Government wants to hear the voices of opinion that reach far beyond those found in the written submissions,” he said.
“We want to know what the community at large thinks about the panel’s recommendations so we can assess the merits of the report.
“I urge stakeholders to use this opportunity to work constructively with the Government utilising the contributions of the report.”
The panel’s report can be accessed at this PS News link.
3 August, 2012
Finance puts money on
The Department of Finance and Deregulation has issued a Circular setting out new rules for Departments and Agencies to pay small business bills promptly.
30-day bill payments
Finance Circular 2008/10 Procurement 30 Day Payment Policy for Small Business takes effect on 1 September and applies to all Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act) agencies. It replaces Finance Circular 2008/10.
The new Circular says agencies are to agree to maximum payment terms not exceeding 30 days for procurement contracts with small business for payments of less than $5 million, GST inclusive.
“Additionally, for procurement contracts with small business valued up to $1 million (GST inclusive), the policy requires agencies to pay penalty interest on request from small business for payments exceeding the maximum payment terms up to 60 days,” the Circular says.
It says after 60 days, the agency must make a self-generated interest payment to the small business for any outstanding simple interest accrued where the amount of that interest is more than $10.
“This policy does not prevent agencies from agreeing to the payment of interest in other circumstances or constrain the arrangements in those circumstances,” it says.
“Agencies must use their Departmental appropriation to pay the interest amount.
“This policy does not apply to procurement of real property including leases and licences (or) procurement from administered items.”
The Circular says the policy does not apply to pre-existing written contracts or to standing offers already in place.
“An agency must ensure that any approach to the market which includes a draft contract indicates that, if the successful tenderer is a small business, the contract will include clauses to give effect to the policy set out in this Finance Circular,” it says.
“Agencies must provide potential suppliers with the opportunity to identify themselves as a small business prior to entering into a written contract with them”.
The Finance Circular can be accessed at this PS News link.
3 August, 2012
Stats to crunch
An information paper detailing the statistical treatment of measures contained in emissions reduction schemes has been released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
Issuing the paper Recording Emissions Reduction Schemes in ABS Statistics the ABS said it would include estimates of the emissions schemes that came into effect on 1 July under the Clean Energy Acts in its economic and environment statistics, commencing with the September reference quarter 2012.
“The ABS will also include estimates for the measures introduced with the Renewable Energy Act 2000 at the same time,” the ABS said.
“The statistical and commercial accounting treatments of emissions reduction schemes have been subject to debate internationally.”
It said the statistical treatment was decided at a meeting of the United Nations Statistical Commission in February which ratified the historic cost approach for recording transactions in the various schemes.
“Rather than follow the UN decision, the ABS has decided to apply a market value approach to recording transactions and positions,” it said.
“This is consistent with fundamental statistical principles as outlined in the internationally agreed System of National Accounts.”
The Bureau said it believed the market value approach would reflect a number of aspects more accurately including the cost of the schemes to business; the value of the taxes collected by government; and the value of the debt of government through issuing tradeable permits.
The information paper can be accessed at this PS News link.
3 August, 2012
AGIMO hangs up on
The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has lifted the mandatory requirement for Departments and Agencies to use its Mobile Phone Panel for the supply of mobile handsets and accessories.
mobile phone panel
In a review of the Panel, AGIMO found it did not offer sufficient value for money compared with other purchasing options and that agency purchasing needs lacked the volume to attract significant price discounts.
According to AGIMO First Assistant Secretary, John Sheridan, the accessories category for mobile handsets has been permanently removed from the scheme and a moratorium on the mandatory use of the Panel has been imposed.
“The moratorium came into effect on 23 July 2012 and will remain in place for up to 12 months,” Mr Sheridan said.
“AGIMO will shortly commence a more extensive review of the Panel to consider options for improving the supply arrangements for mobile devices to the Australian Government.”
“The Panel remains in place for the purchase of mobile voice and data carriage services for which it continues to offer value for money.”
Mr Sheridan said during the review the Office would consult with industry and Agencies to ‘find a suitable solution”.
More information on the Panel is available from this PS News link.
3 August, 2012
Tourism app links
Tourism Australia has launched a new application on its Facebook page that allows travellers to engage their ‘friends’ for inspiration and travel ideas.
friends and travel
Managing Director of Tourism Australia, Andrew McEvoy said the new Discover Australia Through Your Friends app was the first of its kind in the world and merged the best of Google Maps and Facebook technology.
Mr McEvoy said the app provided users with a location-specific snapshot of where all their Facebook friends had previously ‘checked in’ with ‘tagged’ photos and any comments posted about their travel experiences.
He said with more than 3.3 million fans, Tourism Australia had the largest Facebook page in Australia and the most popular tourism destination page in the world.
Mr McEvoy said he believed the new app would be welcomed both by travellers and the Australian tourism industry.
“We know from research that more and more travellers are turning to their social media networks for inspiration to help them plan and get the best out of their holidays,” Mr McEvoy said.
“Tourism Australia has been a global leader in the digital space for over a decade and this innovative social media tool will make word of mouth from your trusted network of Facebook friends even more powerful.”
He said the launch of the new app followed new research findings released last month which demonstrated the growing impact of social media on the way Australians travelled around their own country.
He said a survey of over 1,000 Facebook users nationwide revealed up to 73 per cent proactively checked the social media networks of their friends while they were on holiday.
Mr McEvoy said 20 per cent also admitted they had been prompted to book a domestic holiday as a result of viewing Facebook updates, often inspired by photos and check-ins.
“Facebook remains a key plank in Tourism Australia’s social media strategy to promote the country’s tourism credentials at home and abroad through the power of advocacy,” he said.
The app can be downloaded via the Tourism Australia Facebook page at this PS News link.
3 August, 2012
Disaster study finds
Australians in natural disaster hot spots are willing to pay more for fresh food and faster resupply of utilities after a crisis that for a greater police presence or accommodation of pets in shelters.
storm of preferences
These are the findings of new research from the Australian National University (ANU) which surveyed residents of Cairns after Cyclone Yasi struck in 2009 about the services they were willing to cover following the cyclone.
The research was conducted by Associate Professor Leo Dobes and Professor Jeff Bennett from the Crawford School of Public Policy in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.
Professor Dobes said in February 2009 major retail food outlets in central Cairns had empty shelves in the fresh meat and vegetable sections.
“Trucks carrying fresh produce from Brisbane to Cairns had been cut off by the flooding of the Bruce Highway,” Professor Dobes said.
“Some dry goods were still being shipped in by sea and air, but a shortage of refrigerated containers meant there was a lack of fresh and frozen food.”
He said the study examined whether there were better alternatives for the resupply of fresh food to north Queensland communities isolated by cyclonic flooding and whether Cairns residents would be happy to pay for them.
“Cairns residents were on average prepared to pay about $62 per annum for faster resupply of fresh food,” he said.
“Interestingly, they were willing to pay on average $179 about three times more than for fresh food for faster reconnection of electricity, gas, water and sewerage.”
He said the willingness to pay more for faster resupply of utilities than fresh food could be explained by “the fact that fresh food was all well and good but you need to be able to cook that food, and preferably in your own home”.
“Resupply of utilities electricity, water, sewerage needs to be considered as a complement to the resupply of fresh food,” he said.
“The average amount that people were willing to pay for longer police patrols was $0.
“Anecdotally, this was because even after a natural disaster such as a cyclone, residents felt fairly safe because they have a community spirit of helping each other.”
3 August, 2012
The Council of Australian Government’s Reform Council has welcomed the publication of new and improved National Agreements between the States, Territories and national Governments.
a slow process
Chairman of the Reform Council, Paul McClintock said the National Agreements came at a time when governments were striving to provide clearer, more transparent information on progress.
“All Australians stand to gain from these changes as they will make it easier for the public to understand what is, or is not, being achieved” Mr McClintock said.
“The reviews showed significant scope for improvement to the National Healthcare Agreement.
“In response, COAG has taken some major steps to rationalise and improve the performance reporting framework for this agreement.”
He said the National Education Agreement was already in reasonable shape but COAG had made some small improvements.
He said governments had made progress on the frameworks for the National Agreements on affordable housing and disability and agreed that more work needed to be done to develop better targets.
“While there is more work to be done, the culmination of these reviews and the new National Agreements are a significant achievement under the continuous improvement principle,” Mr McClintock said.
Meanwhile the newest appointment to the Reform Council has also been announced.
In 2006 it was agreed the Council would comprise of up to six members with at least one member having regional and remote experience.
Mr McClintock said that position had now been filled by Sue Middleton, following the departure of Peter Corish.
3 August, 2012
Safety kit pays off
A new Work Health and Safety resource kit for volunteers has been developed by Safe Work Australia.
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten said Australian volunteers contributed more than 700 million hours of unpaid work to the community with an estimated value of almost $15 billion a year.
“All workers, whether they are paid or unpaid, deserve to be safe at work,” Mr Shorten said.
He said the resource kit would help remove uncertainty about how the new WHS laws applied.
“The new WHS laws ensure that volunteers have the same level of protection as paid workers,” he said.
“The comprehensive resource kit will help remove any confusion by clearly showing volunteers and the organisations covered by the WHS laws how to comply with work health and safety requirements.”
Mr Shorten said the kit complemented Safe Work Australia’s volunteer telephone assistance line and email enquiry line and included a guide for volunteers; a guide for organisations that engaged volunteers; a fact sheet; as well as a PowerPoint presentation and podcast.
Chief Executive of Volunteering South Australia and Northern Territory and Chair of the Not for Profit Reform Council Working Group, Evelyn O’Loughlin said the kit would help the sector understand responsibilities and address any lingering confusion about the impact of harmonised WHS laws.
“The launch of the resource kit builds on the excellent work already done by Safe Work Australia in providing information on the application of the new WHS laws to the volunteering sector,” Ms O’Loughlin said.
The new resource kit can be accessed at this PS News link.
3 August, 2012
GA scientists share
Researchers from Geoscience Australia are working with developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region help to create safer communities.
The geoscientists have taught 40 representatives from 13 developing nations to use a range of hazard and risk modelling tools, enabling them to prepare better for natural disasters and respond appropriately.
Leader of the International Group at Geoscience Australia, John Schneider said the technical workshop was held in Brisbane in the lead up to the International Geological Congress, with participants learning skills required to develop hazard maps and impact scenarios for a range of natural hazards including earthquakes, tsunami, volcanoes and tropical cyclones.
“Effective disaster risk reduction is based on developing a thorough understanding of the underlying risk which is aided by the creation of hazard and risk models,” Dr Schneider said.
He said participants also learnt how such tools could be applied for emergency management purposes such as evacuation or land-use planning.
He said the tools had been developed by Geoscience Australia and their partners for application during projects undertaken in Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines enabling stakeholders to implement appropriate disaster planning, preparation, response and recovery mechanisms.
“We have found that by working in collaboration with government partners we can improve their capacity to assess natural hazard risk,” Dr Schneider said.
“Furthermore, by involving local communities in developing risk mitigation strategies, we can also draw upon historical knowledge which leads to better decision making and ultimately more resilient communities.”
Dr Schneider said the workshop was part of a broader program of work being undertaken by Geoscience Australia, in collaboration with the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).
3 August, 2012
Students reefed in
Students from schools in Queensland’s Whitsundays region are being enlisted to protect plants, animals and habitats near the shoreline of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
for Barrier Reef
More than 30 students from three ‘Reef Guardian’ schools will take part in the day-long Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s (GBRMPA) 2012 Future Leaders Eco Challenge.
Acting Program Manager of the Reef Guardian Schools, Carolyn Luder said students would learn how the coastal, marine and Reef catchment areas were interconnected and reliant on one another to function.
“Inshore ecosystems cover about 10 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef and are made up of a diverse range of habitats including seagrass meadows, salt marshes, mangroves, estuaries and beaches,” Ms Luder said.
“Some of these habitats and species may not be part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area but they are interconnected and vital to the health of the Reef.
“These areas are under a lot of pressure from a range of impacts including coastal development and declining water quality, so it’s vital students understand the need for long-term protection of these habitats.”
Founder of the Order of the Underwater Coral Heroes (OUCH) and member of the Whitsundays Local Marine Advisory Committee Tony Fontes applauded the Future Leaders Eco Challenge.
“We’re pleased to be part of the Reef Guardian Schools program, working in conjunction with the leaders of tomorrow to promote sustainable living,” Mr Fontes said.
“These projects help build healthier ecosystems and provide valuable learning experiences for students.
“The activities will be facilitated by local partners the Order of the Underwater Coral Heroes, Whitsunday Local Marine Advisory Committee, Eco Barge Clean Seas, Whitsunday Catchment Landcare and Eco-crew.”
Reef Guardian Schools is an environmental education program run by GBRMPA.
3 August, 2012
And in other news...
Nuclear agreement with UAE
Australia has signed a Nuclear Co-operation Agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The Agreement opens the door for the UAE to become Australia’s first Middle Eastern export market for uranium.
The agreement mirrors arrangements in Australia’s other Nuclear Co-operation Agreements, with Canada, the Republic of Korea, China, the United States and elsewhere.
New material from AGIMO
The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has updated Two Pass Review and business case guidance material for agencies.
The process enables the multi stage assessment of proposals and the updates include an ICT Business Case Guide, templates, samples; and revised diagrams.
The new material can be accessed at this PS News link.
ANU offers online course
The Australian National University is to conduct an online course to train people in representing refugees seeking political asylum in Australia.
The Australian refugee law and Practice short Course will be conducted online from 13 to 24 August and more information is available from this PS News link.
Only four Australian universities have been approved to offer the Graduate Certificate in Australian Migration Law & Practice and the ANU course is the biggest.
DIAC changes for China
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) is changing the way immigration services are to be delivered in China.
Reforms include the introduction of Australian Visa Application Centres (AVACs) in Beijing and Shanghai as well as changes to visa processing locations.
They will take effect on 3 September.
Unis to cooperate more
Three regional universities are to receive funding to improve their research capacity and drive stronger performance outcomes.
The funding is part of the Collaborative Research Networks (CRN) program, which fosters partnerships between regional universities and larger organisations with more established research capacity.
The Australian Catholic University, Bond University and The University of Notre Dame Australia will all receive funding to enter into partnerships enhance research in research disciplines such as sports science, human genetics, Indigenous health and disease management.
Weather upgrade for SA
South Australians now have location-specific seven-day weather forecasts in 31 additional towns across the State.
The extra forecasts mean there are now 59 communities in South Australia that can get a visual and written, seven day forecast from the Bureau of Meteorology’s website.
The South Australian forecast area map can be accessed at this PS News link.
Easier access at Archives
ArcA new driveway off Kings Avenue in Canberra has been opened to allow easier access to the National Archives building.
The new driveway, constructed by the National Capital Authority, reinstates the 1927 entry to the building known as East Block.
Trade up in 2011
Australia’s total trade in services rose 1.4 per cent to $109.1 billion in 2011, according a new report released by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The report, Trade in Services, Australia 2011 also shows exports of services fell 3.4 per cent to $50.1 billion while Australia’s top three services export markets were China, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Australia’s top three services import sources were the United States, the United Kingdom and Singapore.